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Edwards trial jurors ask for evidence but end first day of deliberations without verdict

 

The jurors in the corruption trial of John Edwards, after beginning deliberations Friday, broke for the weekend without reaching a verdict are are scheduled to reconvene Monday morning.

"I think this indicates they're doing their due diligence," said Elon University law professor Steve Friedland, a former federal prosecutor who has attended most of the trial. "The jury sat, watched and took notes for the trial. Now it's their turn to sift through the evidence and be the judge of the facts."

This afternoon, jurors asked to review several pieces of prosecution evidence.

The items included several checks from Edwards' supporter Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to interior decorator Bryan Huffman, that were co-signed and deposited by the wife of former Edwards campaign aide Andrew Young.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and failed Democratic presidential candidate, is accused of funneling more than $1 million from Mellon and another wealthy political donor to his mistress to cover up their affair. He could face up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $1.5 million if juror agree with prosecutors that the payoffs qualify as campaign donations, which are limited by federal law.

The defense argues that Edwards may have sinned in his affair but broke no law in the cover-up.

Jurors on Friday also asked to see a transcript of an August 2008 voicemail message, in which Edwards tells Andrew Young about an upcoming meeting with Mellon.

According to the transcript, Edwards tells Young, "Immediately after lunch, she and I will break out into a private session for a couple of hours. That's when we'll do our work, including the work about you, and makin' sure you're, uh, protected and included…"

And the jury asked to review a note Mellon wrote Andrew Young in April 2007 after Edwards took heat in the media for spending $400 on a haircut.

In the note, Mellon writes, "…from now on, all haircuts, etc., that are necessary and important for his campaign - please send the bills to me - ℅ Alex Forger in New York. It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions."

Forger is Mellon's estate lawyer, who testified earlier that, when he discovered Mellon's secret payments to the Youngs, Edwards' former lawyer Wade Smith told him the candidate knew the money was for his benefit, a statement Smith denied making.

The jury requested a written transcript of Forger's testimony. But Judge Catherine Eagles denied the request, telling jurors to rely on their own memories of what Forger had said.

"They're hiking the 'Bunny' trail basically, looking to see whether that trail goes through John Edwards," Friedland, the law professor, said of the jury.

"Those little notes really reflect what Bunny Mellon was thinking at the time she sent the money," said Kieran Shanahan, another former federal prosecutor watching the trial. "And the judge has instructed that the donor Mrs. Mellon's intent when she gave the money is something they must consider in determining whether these are, in fact, campaign contributions that must be reported."

However, Shanahan cautioned it's too early to draw conclusions that the jury is leaning towards the prosecution. He agreed with Friedland that the evidence the jury requested is an indication the panel is reviewing all the facts of the case with due diligence.

Jonathan Serrie joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in April 1999 and currently serves as a correspondent based in the Atlanta bureau.

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