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Video: Edwards juror: ‘The evidence was not there’

  1. Closed captioning of: Edwards juror: ‘The evidence was not there’

    >> rashon served as the jury foreman at the edwards trial. our other guests were members of the jury and are with us exclusively this morning. we appreciate it. good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> nine days of deliberations. what was the mood like in that room?

    >> we had emotions. each day was a new day. we would start with calmness. we actually prayed together as a group. we'd finish the day and challenge ourselves every bit of the day.

    >> start with calmness. did it end with calmness or did emotions boil over? did it get frustrating in that room?

    >> there were times it got very frustrating. the emotions got high. we'd have to take a minute, step back, and just everyone calm down.

    >> it took nine days to reach a mistrial here. at what point during the deliberations were you all convinced that it was probably going to end that way?

    >> yesterday.

    >> just yesterday.

    >> yes.

    >> you thought maybe you could reach verdicts on all these counts prior to yesterday?

    >> yes, i did. we had several discussions on that and we tried to work it out, but we couldn't come to a unanimous decision .

    >> 2:00 yesterday afternoon you alert the judge. you say we've reached a unanimous decision on one of the counts, count three. we're still having problems with the other five. she sent you back to work. what happened in those couple of hours between her sending you back to work and declaring a mistrial?

    >> you know, the first thing i'd say, matt, is we had deliberately planned on that possibly happening. so we knew going in that we wouldn't go into that jury room without a full conviction of what we wanted to get accomplished, so when we went in the first time, we were very confident but we took the judge's instructions and came back and did exactly what she asked and deliberated one more time.

    >> let's do a little show and tell. raise your hands if you think john edwards was guilty on at least some of the counts against him. okay. raise your hands if you think john edwards is a bad guy. interesting. so the personal side of this case where they brought those witnesses forward and there was that testimony about his lies about rielle hunter, his lies about paternity of her child, the fact that he had an affair while his wife was battling cancer, did that not have any impact on you as a jury?

    >> we tried to put our feelings aside and what we were doing was just looking at the facts to come up with our verdict.

    >> we all came in with our own preconceived notions but once the evidence was laid out we had to separate that.

    >> you raised your hand. you said you think he is guilty on at least some of the counts. what do you think he was guilty of?

    >> i do. i think that he had some knowledge. i think he definitely had some knowledge of the money, where the money was going especially the money from mrs. mellon.

    >> so you think he was guilty of breaking campaign finance laws?

    >> i do.

    >> yes.

    >> and you do as well.

    >> i do as well. but he was just smart enough to hide it and we could not find the evidence.

    >> so what was it in the prosecution's case that did not reach the level you needed for a verdict?

    >> i would say the burden of proof . it wasn't there, the evidence.

    >> i think the credibility of the witness was something that was of utmost importance to us.

    >> andrew young ?

    >> yes.

    >> so he was their star witness and he came with a lot of baggage. how damaging in the long run did he become to the prosecution's case?

    >> i think, unfortunately, that was probably the key part of the miss for the prosecution because they did a tremendous job. both sets of attorneys. and there were cases that could be built in either way . but when it came down to it, it was a matter of filling in the gaps.

    >> cindy, john edwards on the courthouse steps said, i am responsible. and if i want to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins, honestly, i don't have to go any further than the mirror. it's me and me alone. when you look at john edwards today, what thoughts come to your mind?

    >> i think he was guilty, but like we said, the evidence just was not there for us to prove guilt.

    >> there is still no official word from the government, ladonna, as to whether they will retry these five counts. do you think they should?

    >> yes, i do.

    >> david?

    >> i think there needs to be some change in campaign finance law before you go through this process. and kind of nailing down what really is and what really isn't a campaign contribution .

    >> there's been some criticism of the government for millions of dollars spent on this prosecution. do you think it was money well spent?

    >> i do not.

    >> do you think he was guilty but you don't think it was money well spent. that is a contradiction.

    >> i'd say it was money well spent. it's elevating to the world the need for stronger finance law and it's also elevating what candidates can and can't do as it relates to a campaign.

    >> fascinating to hear what you have to say. there is a lot of nuance in your comments.

    >> we were told in opening statement, follow the money. that was interesting and that's what we tried to do.

    >> we really appreciate your time this morning.

    >> thank you.

    >> thank you very much. nice to meet you all. it

By
TODAY contributor
updated 6/1/2012 8:40:38 AM ET 2012-06-01T12:40:38

Two of the jurors from the campaign finance trial of former presidential candidate John Edwards told TODAY Friday that they believed he was guilty, but said the evidence was just not there to secure a conviction on any of the six counts.

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The jury found Edwards not guilty on Thursday of one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions and was deadlocked on the remaining five charges after nine days of deliberation. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles declared a mistrial on the remaining charges, which arose from Edwards’ race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Story: John Edwards 'not guilty' on one count; mistrial declared on remaining charges

‘The evidence wasn’t there’
“I think he definitely had some knowledge of where the money was going,’’ juror Ladonna Foster told Matt Lauer. “The evidence wasn’t there.’’

“(Edwards) was just smart enough to hide it,’’ said juror Cindy Aquaro. “I think he was guilty, but the evidence just was not there for us to prove guilt.’’

Edwards, 58, conducted an affair while his wife Elizabeth was battling the cancer that eventually took her life, and initially lied about fathering a child with his mistress, campaign videographer Rielle Hunter. The prosecution focused on $1 million in donations from Fred Baron and Rachel “Bunny’’ Mellon that allegedly was used to support a pregnant Hunter. The jury found Edwards not guilty of receiving illegal campaign contributions from Mellon in 2008.

Video: Edwards juror: ‘The evidence was not there’ (on this page)

The lack of credibility of the government’s top witness, former Edwards aide Andrew Young, played a crucial role in the deadlocked verdicts. Checks from donors were made out to Young’s wife in her maiden name, and Young allegedly used the money to pay for rent, living expenses and more for Hunter.

“I think the credibility of the witness was something that was of utmost importance to us,’’ jury foreman David Recchion told Lauer. “I think, unfortunately, that was probably the key part of the miss for the prosecution.’’

Not a ‘bad person’
Edwards’ clear character issues were not a factor to the two jurors and the foreman. Foster, Aquaro and Recchion all raised their hands when asked by Lauer if they thought Edwards was guilty, but none of them raised their hands when asked if they believed Edwards was a bad person.

“We tried to put our feelings aside, and what we were doing was just looking at the facts to come up with our verdict,’’ Aquaro said.

“We all came in with our own preconceived notions, but then once the evidence was laid out, we had to separate them,’’ Foster said.

In a statement on the steps of the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday, Edwards admitted to behaving poorly, but said he had not done anything illegal.

Video: Jury unable to reach consensus in Edwards trial (on this page)

"I want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while I do not believe I did anything illegal or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful lot that was wrong, and there is no one else responsible for my sins,’’ Edwards told reporters.

During the emotional process of deliberation, the jury believed right up until Wednesday that they would be able to break the deadlock and deliver verdicts on all the counts.

“There were times it got very frustrating, the emotions got high and we’d have to take a minute, step back and everyone calm down,’’ Aquaro said.

Regarding being sent back to the jury room by the judge to deliberate further, Recchion, the foreman, said: “We had deliberately planned on that possibly happening. We knew going in that we wouldn’t go into that jury room without a full conviction of what we wanted to get accomplished. When we went in the first time, we were very confident, but we took the judge’s instructions and came back and did exactly what she asked and deliberated one more time.”

There is a possibility that prosecutors could seek to retry Edwards, raising the issue of whether it’s worth it to spend taxpayer money to go through the process again. Aquaro does not believe the trial was money well spent, while Foster said she thinks there should be a retrial.

Video: Will John Edwards be retried after mistrial? (on this page)

As for Recchion, he thinks the law needs to be altered before another trial would be worthwhile.

“I think there needs to be some change in campaign finance law before you go through this process in kind of nailing down what really is and what really isn’t a campaign contribution,’’ the jury foreman said. “I say it was money well-spent. It’s elevating to the world the need for stronger finance law, and it’s also elevating what candidates can and can’t do as it relates to a campaign.’’

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