No Verdict Today in John Edwards Trial

Update: No verdict today, the jurors asked for some exhibits and a board to write and markers. Their requests pertained to the Bunny Mellon contributions.

Update: Here are the final instructions given to the jury in the John Edwards trial.

I really want to write something positive today, to give Team Edwards support and let them know that, outside of North Carolina, there are people like me and TalkLeft readers who think John Edwards has gotten the short end of the stick in this trial.


I don't have much to say about closings, because there's no detailed coverage and I don't have the transcripts. Final Jury instructions should be posted today, after the jury begins deliberating. The jury were read the instructions Thursday. In a trial like this, the instructions can make or break the case.

I'll leave you with a few things to tide you over while waiting:

That ought to get you started. I'm keeping my fingers crossed all day.

Update: The judge didn't define what reasonable doubt is, only what it is not.

This is a heavy and strict burden, the highest in the law and higher than the burden of proof in civil cases; but it does not require the government to prove a defendantís guilt beyond all possible doubt. The test is one of reasonable doubt.

The law presumes that reasonable doubt is a concept within the ordinary competence of a jury, that is, that you will be able to apply reasonable doubt according to its plain, ordinary, and everyday meaning. Therefore, I will not define any further what is, or is not, reasonable doubt.

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    Definitely has my support (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by ruffian on Fri May 18, 2012 at 12:01:22 PM EST
    The donors saying they were not making a campaign contribution, and the money never going into the campaign account makes it clear enough to me that whatever was going on had nothing to do with an attempt to break campaign finance law.  

    And the (inadmissible) fact theFEC said the money (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Angel on Fri May 18, 2012 at 12:21:14 PM EST
    wasn't campaign contributions.  

    Yes - the jury should be able to know that (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by ruffian on Fri May 18, 2012 at 02:18:30 PM EST
    IMO. What if they convict and find that out later?

    Yes, and the judge's instructions (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by KeysDan on Fri May 18, 2012 at 02:40:49 PM EST
    that reasonable doubt is not all possible doubt would hardly have been necessary if the jury had the entire record to evaluate.   As it is, it is unfair to the jury's deliberations,  not to mention justice for  John Edwards, of course.

    Wel, if that happens, John Edwards is in (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by caseyOR on Fri May 18, 2012 at 02:40:50 PM EST
    prison.  The jurors are p!ssed off. The prosecutors are happy as clams.

    If I was a member of that jury, (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Zorba on Fri May 18, 2012 at 02:44:54 PM EST
    and voted to convict (which I seriously doubt that I would, given even what the jury currently knows), I would be thoroughly dismayed and frankly, totally p!ssed off if I found out later about the FEC audit, and the former FEC Commissioner who was willing to testify as an expert witness, only to learn that the judge did not allow these.

    Shocks the conscience (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 04:33:45 PM EST
    What makes this malfeasance even worse is that the testimony this FEC official was going to testify to was only one of a long laundry list of legally indefensible adverse ruling by this judge. The reason that this one sticks out is because an FEC Commissioner willing, even eager, to testify on an FEC matter is something even us non-lawyers can understand.

    So, now the "Shooter/Corrupt Official/Making it Right Act" has to kick in:
    Edwards gets 10 years in the slammer?
    Eagles gets 30 years!


    This is the first time (1.00 / 1) (#10)
    by TeresaInPa on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:07:50 PM EST
    in the 30 years I have been involved in politics, that so many people have professed so much faith in the purity and truth of the FEC.  

    And in the 30 years (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Zorba on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:19:49 PM EST
    that you have been involved in politics, how much faith have you professed in the Department of Justice and their prosecutors?  Not to mention many of the judges.  If you think that the prosecutors and judges are all so pristine pure, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you in Brooklyn.

    ah there you are Zorba (none / 0) (#25)
    by TeresaInPa on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:27:03 PM EST
    I keep wondering if you are working for the Edwards 2016 campaign.  If not, I am not sure what all the 1 ratings are about.  We disagree but the ratings are really more or less toothless, why do you bother?  
    Where did I ever say judges and the justice department were infallible in the way so many of you think the FEC is (the FEC says it wasn't a campaign contribution, so it must not be...lol). The presiding Judge seems to want the jury to decide for themselves whether or not those funds were campaign funds or not.  
    Here's the point, of the three, Justice, FEC and political campaign operatives, I put campaign hacks and those they serve, on the bottom of the heap.
    Can I have my 1 now please? = )

    Not so much (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by bmaz on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:26:25 PM EST
    But when even the lame FEC is saying this is BS, then you know it really must be.

    Really? What a coincidence! (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:34:29 PM EST
    and, in the 40 years I have been involved in politics, this is the first time so many disparate people coalesced around the idea that faith in the purity and truth of the FEC is completely irrelevant when the light of our Jeffersonian Democracy is threatened to be snuffed out.

    Funny how that happened. Cynicism has its place. This isn't the place.


    That happens all the time (none / 0) (#33)
    by jbindc on Mon May 21, 2012 at 06:48:02 AM EST
    Evidence gets left out of trials - remember the OJ trial?  The jury never got to hear things like Ron Goldman's blood was all over Simpson's Bronco.  

    This is not something new and rare.


    Dislike Edwards intensely, hope for acquittal... (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Addison on Fri May 18, 2012 at 02:55:49 PM EST
    This case is bizarre. I don't even understand how entirely non-campaign money is at the center of a trial about campaign finance. This thing shouldn't even have ever made it to a jury.

    Personally, I think Edwards is a louse. (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:26:05 PM EST
    But last I saw, it isn't a federal crime to be a louse, despite the salacious dog-and-pony show conducted by the prosecution.

    I think the prosecution failed to prove anything here. Bunny Mellon liked John Edwards, and because he was her friend and she wanted to help him out in a difficult (albeit self-inflicted) personal situation, she gifted him money and paid the federal gift taxes in the process. She had the right to do that, and to extrapolate from her generosity that a then-98-year-old woman was seeking to influence a presidential election is, politely, a stretch.

    Donald (none / 0) (#26)
    by TeresaInPa on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:33:02 PM EST
    When Bunny Melon found out what they money was for she said that perhaps Edwards should be paying for his own girlfriend's upkeep.  We do not know what kind of tap dance they had to do to get Melon to pay the gift taxes on that money, but there is no reason to gave it for any reason other than to keep him in the presidential race.  Even if that money was for personal expenses, they were personal expenses he had due to running for president. Otherwise he could pay himself.  After all he was a very rich man.

    But... (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by Addison on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:43:35 PM EST
    Whether or not he was running for president, if someone else was willing to pay, wouldn't he accept?

    It isn't (none / 0) (#34)
    by jbindc on Mon May 21, 2012 at 07:32:44 AM EST
    Just about donations made by Bunny Mellon.  There are also charges relating to funds received from Fred Baron. (Counts 4 and 5 of the indictment).

    Here's the key instruction IMHO (1.00 / 2) (#9)
    by Beldar on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:05:26 PM EST
    From pp. 8-9 of the .pdf file of the Final Jury Instructions:

    "The government does not have to prove that the sole or only purpose of the money was to influence the election.... If you find beyond a reasonable doubt that one of [Bunny Mellon's] purposes was to influence an election, then that would be sufficient [to convict]."

    This directly undercuts the main defense theme that the money from Bunny and Dead Fred was intended to help Edwards hide his affair from Elizabeth. The jury can believe that such was, indeed, ONE of the purposes, while also still concluding that the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the money was also intended to influence an election.

    so, you (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 07:09:55 PM EST
    apparently believe the prosecutor's convoluted, unprecedented accusation was enough information for a jury to make that determination?

    If so, I agree, there was no need for the defense to present its case.


    Bingo (1.00 / 2) (#11)
    by TeresaInPa on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:14:29 PM EST
    and I can not understand how anyone, knowing Edwards as we do now, unfortunately, can think this was not mostly about keeping his campaign going.  Even keeping his wife in the dark was mostly about keeping his campaign going. That makes that money a campaign donation no matter what the FEC says.  The jury decides that, not the FEC, not his friends who want to cover for him.

    Stuff. (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by Addison on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:40:54 PM EST
    Just a hypothetical: if someone paid for Edwards to have a heart transplant, would that be a campaign donation? If a Catholic Hospital donated its services for Edwards to get a heart transplant, is that a campaign donation by the Catholic Church?

    Additionally, it almost seems like you think the court should presume the FEC is corrupt in this case, and can't honestly judge issues within its bailiwick. As an agency responsible for the administration and civil enforcement of of federal election and campaign finance laws, if they determined that the spending was not campaign spending, that fact should at the very least be presented to the jury. And if that finding is somehow the result of corruption (something which hasn't even been alleged by prosecutors, let alone proven), frankly that seems like the FEC's problem and not John Edwards. You only have the bureaucracy you're given -- if the FEC is corrupt they need to be prosecuted.


    Well (none / 0) (#35)
    by jbindc on Mon May 21, 2012 at 07:34:57 AM EST
    Here's what the judge said:

    "The government does not have to prove that the sole or only purpose of the money was to influence the election.....People rarely act with a single purpose in mind. On the other hand, if the donor would have made the gift or payment notwithstanding the election, it does not become a contribution merely because the gift or payment might have some impact on the election. Nor does it become a contribution just because the donor knew it might have some influence on the election and found that acceptable, if the donor's real purpose was personal or otherwise unrelated to the election."

    Not to mention Mrs. Edwards already knew about (none / 0) (#16)
    by oculus on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:36:07 PM EST
    Her husband's affair.  

    Agree (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jeralyn on Fri May 18, 2012 at 06:37:37 PM EST
    And that will be the biggest issue on appeal if he's convicted.

    The exhibits the jury asked for today relate to Bunny Mellon's purpose and what Edwards told Andrew Young about Mellon.

    While it's not possible to know though whether one or more of them think that's important, it's unfortunate for Edwards she sided with the Government on that instruction.

    Election law expert Rick Hasen has said all along it's not the donor's intent that matters:


    Let's suppose Mellon did not know.  Even if Mellon intended the money to help Edwards' campaign, it is Edwards intent that matters here. As I explained in a Slate piece last year, under the murky law on what constitutes "personal use" of funds received during the course of a campaign, Edwards has at least a plausible argument his intent was to save his marriage and not to help his campaign.  (My more technical post on this issue is here.)

    More from Rick at Slate here.


    And even more than that... (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Addison on Fri May 18, 2012 at 07:01:30 PM EST
    I don't even think the "personal use" has to involve his wife at all. Certainly he was concerned about his personal reputation entirely apart from the presidential race. If I had done something like that I would want it covered up regardless of whether or not I was running for president -- to get a good lawyer job afterward, to get speaking engagements, or just be able to go to a restaurant without whispers!

    And if some elderly woman was willing to pay for the problem to get hushed up, great!

    Succinctly, payments designed to help someone avoid becoming a societal pariah "would have been made irrespective of the candidacy," to quote from Hasen's article. To further quote his opinion:

    If Edwards took the cover-up money to save his marriage and generally preserve his public image, he's not guilty of federal campaign-finance violations. That's why the indictment emphasizes the "devoted family man" aspect of the campaign. So the question is how to draw the line between the personal and the political.

    What public figure, candidate or not, WOULDN'T accept help covering something like that up? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?! The candidacy doesn't matter if he would have taken the money whether or not he was a candidate.

    I haven't actually followed this case much at all. I am shocked at the paucity of the government's case.


    "So, (none / 0) (#22)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 09:01:00 PM EST
     the question is how to draw the line between the personal and the political."

    In Edward's situation, it can't be done. The two are inextricable.  


    Not convincing to me. (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Addison on Fri May 18, 2012 at 09:10:05 PM EST
    In Edwards' situation, it can't be done. The two are inextricable.

    Then it seems they must acquit. If he would've accepted the money even if he weren't running for president, he's not guilty. If Edwards is a lifelong "candidate" whether or not he's a literal candidate for an actual office (the only situation in which campaign finance applies) -- he's not guilty because his accepting the money wasn't predicated on an actual run for office. He's just self-interested. And if you're saying that John Edwards is, as a person, perpetually a candidate -- well, I don't know how you prove that given that he's not a candidate now and he's still alive.

    So, I'm not sure what you mean by "inextricable", but judging by the interpretations I see I don't think it results in a conviction.


    Well the question is (none / 0) (#29)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:44:21 PM EST
     "where you draw the line between the personal and the political." It's not like there's a simple, universally accepted, dictionary provable definition. There are different points of vision, vortexes if you will, that it can be looked at.

    For a Bill Clinton, or a John Edwards, I don't think there's a separation. Steve jobs "was" Apple.

    Am I confused? do I not understand the bases from which I should be looking at it?


    I don't know if you're confused. (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Addison on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:58:27 PM EST
    I know that if I did what Edwards did, and Bunny Mellon allowed the means to cover it up, I'd accept immediately. And I'm not running for office. So I don't see the exchange as a campaign-dependent thing as far as Edwards is concerned. And I don't see how a jury could think otherwise. He was running for office, sure. Anyone not running for office would've accepted the same money. So you can't prove he only accepted it because he was running for an office.

    When jury deliberations begin on a Friday (none / 0) (#20)
    by Peter G on Fri May 18, 2012 at 07:06:44 PM EST
    and the jury does not return a verdict that day -- in effect, volunteering to take another week out of their lives -- it suggests that on a straw vote they didn't all see the case even nearly the same way. Normally, that favors the defense.  Not so sure in this case.

    Peter, (none / 0) (#24)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 09:10:25 PM EST
    Hypothetically (don't you just love these?) Assume Edwards is convicted, but wins on appeal. And, during the investigations for the appeal it is exposed, and accepted, that Judge Eagles did, in fact, trade her fair minded judgment for some kind of favor, what kind of sanctions can we  expect?

    We can just redact "Edwards & Eagles" and replace them with Judge "A" and defendant "B" if using actual names makes you uncomfortable or violates some kind of protocol..


    So unlikely a scenario (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Peter G on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:40:45 PM EST
    as to be unworthy of comment, imho.

    o.k (none / 0) (#30)
    by NYShooter on Fri May 18, 2012 at 10:47:55 PM EST
    Hypothetically: libel. (none / 0) (#32)
    by oculus on Sat May 19, 2012 at 12:00:27 AM EST
    An interesting analysis (none / 0) (#36)
    by jbindc on Mon May 21, 2012 at 07:45:08 AM EST
    Of the case by someone who taught Election Law at Duke University, Hampton Dellinger.