OTR Interviews

Was the John Edwards corruption trial a waste of time?

'On the Record' legal panel looks at how John Edwards escaped conviction in his corruption trial


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 31, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: One of the most disgraced men in America, former United States senator John Edwards off the hook, at least for now, the jury deadlocking on five charges in his campaign corruption trial. They acquitted him on one charge. So what was Edwards's first stop after the judge declared a mistrial? TV cameras. The former presidential candidate jumped in front of the cameras and had lots to say.

Our legal panel is here. Jim Hammer joins us from San Francisco, Bernie Grimm and Ted Williams are here. Now, Ted, you're a big defender of John Edwards.

TED WILLIAMS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm a big defender. Boy, that's an understatement. As far as I'm concerned, John Edwards is --


WILLIAMS: -- is more than horse manure for what he did to his wife. I met Elizabeth Edwards right here in this studio, and I'm very saddened.

But let me say this. The government did not have a case here. To bring this case was a waste of taxpayers' money! And it's sad. When you look at Bunny Mellon, the 100-year-old person who was supposed to have given some money, she didn't testify. Fred Baron, who was alleged to have given some money, is dead. The government didn't have a case. This was a waste of taxpayer money.

BERNIE GRIMM, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I mean, I'm in court right now, been in trial for three weeks, and down the hall's the Clemens case. It's costing millions of dollars to watch this all unfold.

I mean, Edwards left a lot of carnage behind him, but the government was wrong. I don't understand why this case is being brought in the first place. I mean, it's just silly.

Edwards's stump speech -- I mean, I'm glad I didn't eat before I came down here because I would have been a little bit sick.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jim, why was this case brought? I mean, from the very beginning, most lawyers looking at it were sort of confused by the prosecution's theory about -- you know, about this case. I mean, it seemed weak to begin with. And prosecutors ought to bring cases they can win. You look at this and think, why are you bringing this? And then you hear about the evidence coming out through the reporters in the courtroom, but you keep wondering why they are bringing this.

JIM HAMMER, FORMER ASSISTANT SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I don't want to criticize a prosecutor because they try a tough case, but I think this was a huge mistake. Prosecutors sometimes get too close to this case. I can imagine going to this and finding the check and saying ah-ha, I got that piece of evidence, and finding the next check and finding a witness.

If you get tunnel vision about a case and too close to it and don't step back and say, OK, one theory is he violated campaign finance laws. The other one is he wanted to keep it secret, and that's not a crime. That's what the prosecutor did here. He didn't say there are two totally reasonable explanations, one a crime, one not a crime, and I'm not going to prosecute this case.

VAN SUSTEREN: Bernie, the strong he felt evidence the prosecution had and it's grossly improper is he's very difficult to like. I actually have to applaud the jury that they could step aside from all the horrible things they hear about him and look at the evidence fairly and squarely. But even listening to what he said on the steps, it sounded like he loves his kids, but oh, my precious Quinn, and he gets all choked up, and you watch and you think are you kidding in his other daughter is standing there.


GRIMM: The optics are just so bizarre on so many different levels. But it's a testament to the injure system. This case, Casey Anthony, people who can put aside bad character, which you are not supposed to convict somebody on, and base it on the facts -- morally the guy is bankrupt, but factually I'm with Jim. The case shouldn't have been brought in the first place.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think from what he said in the courthouse he thinks he's coming back.

WILLIAMS: Wait a minute. If you ever heard a campaign speech, you heard it with John Edwards outside of that courtroom. Did you see where he choked up? My daughter, Quinn. Give me a break.

When you look at this case, one of the other sleaze-balls in this case was Andrew Young, the chief witness for the government. This guy not only got the money, put it in his private bank account, but even took some of the money and built a house.


HAMMER: I think there's another part to the question why did the prosecutor get wrapped up in this case. There's this idea when you come across a case that's so disgusting and we all agree the affair he carried on but what he put his daughters on is beyond despicable. I think prosecutors can get so wrapped up and think he's such a horrible man, I'm going to get him. Being horrible isn't a crime.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's dangerous, though, Jim. The prosecutor is going to prosecute someone because he gets the top prize for being the biggest creep?


HAMMER: He is. And this should be a warning. This should be a warning -- I think juries don't want to convict people for what is sex offenses. He was a horrible husband and a cheat, but most people don't think that's a crime.

WILLIAMS: But what's even more dangerous was this man was a heartbeat away from the presidency. When he couldn't win the presidency all of a sudden he tried to become the vice president. Can you imagine how embarrassing this would have been for this country?

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, hats off to the jury and the defense attorney, who also did a great job on this. Jim, Ted, Bernie, thank you all.