John Edwards jurors: Evidence ''just wasn't there''

9:24 AM, Jun 1, 2012   |    comments
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Former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John Edwards, center, arrives outside federal court with his daughter Cate, left, in Greensboro, N.C., for his trial on charges of violating federal campaign finance laws, Monday, April 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

 


 


GREENSBORO, N.C. - Some of the jurors from the John Edwards case that ended in mistrial said there just wasn't enough evidence to convict him of campaign finance violations.

Six of the jurors went on network talk shows Friday, a day after acquitting the former presidential candidate on one count and failing to reach a verdict on five other charges.

Prosecutors had charged Edwards with misusing campaign contributions from two wealthy donors to hide his pregnant mistress while he ran for the White House.

The jury's foreman, David Recchion, told NBC's "Today" that the credibility of the government's lead witness, Andrew Young, was of the utmost importance to the jury. "I think [Young] was the key part of the miss for the prosecution," Recchion said.

Cindy Aquaro said on NBC's "Today" show that she thought Edwards was guilty of at least some counts, but she said he was smart enough to hide it, and that "the evidence just was not there for us to prove guilt."

"The emotions got high" in the deliberation room, she said.

Ladonna Foster, who said she has thought up until yesterday that the jury would be able to come to a verdict, said she believes Edwards should be re-tried on the five charges for which a mistrial was declared.

Although no decision has been announced, it is "unlikely" the Department of Justice will retry Edwards, a source has confirmed to CBS News.

Meanwhile, alternate juror Denise Speight said she agreed with defense attorneys that the Edwards campaign did not receive the money.

"All the money, they never went into the campaign, they never went to John Edwards. Of the $1.8 million, $1.6 million went right to Andrew and Cheri Young," Speight told "CBS This Morning."

Jonathan Nunn told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he believed the payments Edwards received from wealthy benefactors - money used to help hide his relationship with Rielle Hunter - were personal gifts.

Another juror, Theresa Fuller, told "GMA" that "the evidence just wasn't there."

Recchion said he believed there needs to be changes in campaign finance law, to nail down what is and isn't a campaign contribution.

"48 Hours" correspondent Erin Moriarty said the problem for the prosecution was putting too much of its case on one witness, Andrew Young, who she said was very strong in direct, but in cross-examination seemed, in her words, "a broken man."

"You just saw him slowly disintegrating," Moriarty told Charlie Rose. "And then when he had to admit he spent so much money, and on piddly things - maybe I'm very Midwest, but when he admitted he paid $100,000 for a home theater, another $100,000 for a pool, you began to wonder whether he used this entire scandal to enrich himself, and I think the jurors felt the same thing."

"And then you have none of the other main characters testifying - I just think it was too much reasonable doubt," she said.

"Every case like this gives me more and more faith in the jurors," Moriarty said. "I had so many friends saying, 'Oh, he's going to be found guilty.' The jurors took their job very seriously. They clearly could separate the man from the actions. And when it came down to it, you didn't have Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon testifying, you didn't have Fred Baron, you didn't have John Edwards, you didn't have Rielle Hunter. All you had was Andrew Young, and could you trust his word when he made so much money out of this?"

Moriarty believes it would be very difficult for the government to retry Edwards.

"This case first came from a Republican holdover, who is no longer the U.S. attorney," Moriarty said. "I think they're stuck with this main witness."

[George Holding, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and a Bush appointee, made a name for himself with criminal probes of high-profile Democrats, including the state's former governor. He resigned in 2011 after Edwards was indicted, and later announced his candidacy for Congress. Holding won the GOP primary last month.]

Moriarty said that in her reporting she had tried to find somebody who supported the government's case. "I could not find anyone who thought that this was a valid prosecution, so I really cannot see the government trying to retry," she said.

Thursday's verdict of not guilty on one count and a mistrial on five others bore out criticism from the earliest stages of the case that it was a reach, that prosecutors went after the ex-U.S. senator without the kind of evidence that justified the charges.

"As noted by nearly every campaign finance lawyer who considered the matter, this was a lousy case," said Melanie Sloan, executive director for the campaign finance watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "All the salacious details prosecutors offered up to prove that Edwards is, indeed, despicable, were not enough to persuade the jury to convict him."

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