Scrushy Jury Ends Ninth Day of Deliberations

The judge in the corporate fraud trial of former HealthSouth Corp. (search) chief executive Richard Scrushy (search) refused Wednesday to allow the divided jury to hear a trial transcript, and the jury later ended a ninth day of deliberations without a verdict.

The Alabama jury has been split on the main charge against Scrushy, a flamboyant multimillionaire who is accused by the U.S. government of directing a $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the medical rehabilitation firm.

In a note sent to U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre on Wednesday, the seven male and five female jurors asked whether it was p's trial in Birmingham.

"Transcripts will not be available to you," she said in a written reply. "For me to read a small portion of the testimony to you from the lengthy transcript could unduly emphasize one bit of testimony to the exclusion of all other testimony."

The jury, which told Bowdre last week that it was split and confused over the main conspiracy charge against Scrushy, did not say which testimony it was interested in rehearing. It later adjourned without reaching a verdict.

Besides the conspiracy count, Scrushy faces multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, money laundering and other wrongdoing in connection with a scheme to inflate the company's earnings and allegedly enrich himself between 1996 and 2002.

In addition, he is the first major figure charged with violating the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act (search), the corporate reform law passed by Congress requiring, among other things, that chief executives certify the accuracy of their financial statements.

Scrushy did so before stepping down in 2002 as CEO of HealthSouth, which he had built into the nation's largest chain of rehabilitation and outpatient surgery clinics. He was ousted as the company's chairman the following year.

If convicted, the 52-year-old Alabama native could spend the rest of his life in prison.

But defense attorneys have been buoyed each day the Birmingham deliberations continued without a verdict.

"There comes a time in any contest where you can forecast the outcome. I think it will be favorable," said Donald Watkins, a Scrushy attorney. Prosecutors, however, downplayed speculation that the ongoing deliberations were a sign that the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and a mistrial was imminent.

The government says Scrushy, who hosts a religion-inspired television show and regularly preaches in Christian churches in this Bible-Belt city, directed the fraud to inflate the value of his stock options and fund an extravagant lifestyle. He sold more than $200 million worth of stock.

Tales of his lavish spending have outraged many HealthSouth investors, who saw the Birmingham-based company's stock plummet from a high of $30.56 a share in 1998 to 8 cents a share shortly after the fraud came to light in 2003.

Defense lawyers have portrayed Scrushy as an unknowing victim of a scheme by other HealthSouth executives who agreed to testify for the prosecution to avoid harsh prison terms.

Fifteen former HealthSouth officials have pleaded guilty to charges related to the fraud. Scrushy did not testify at his trial.