The jury in the John Edwards case began its deliberations on Friday and left for the weekend with no verdict. They asked to see the checks that Bunny Mellon wrote. The jury of 5 African Americans and 6 whites with one person’s race unknown will decide his fate. Seven are men and 5 are women. A jury is like what Forest Gump called a “box of chocolates”. You never know what you will get. Right about now, one has to wonder if Edwards is thinking about the deal that he turned down. He knew what he would get with the plea offer.
Going back in time before the indictment, the government offered Edwards a plea to a misdemeanor with 6 months in jail and the ability to keep his law license. He now faces up to 30 years in jail and over a $1 million fine for the 6 felonies he faces.. Hindsight is always 20-20. At that point in time, Edwards turned down the plea because it did not allow his attorneys to request a lower sentence than 6 months. And Edwards did not want to be away from his children. But a jury trial is like rolling dice. A jury can be as unpredictable as Lady Luck. Edwards, a successful trial attorney knows all about juries. Sometimes they’re for you and sometimes they’re against you.
The closing arguments went as expected for both sides. The defense tried to paint Edwards as a liar and cheat but not a criminal. The prosecution painted him as a liar, cheat and criminal. One possible misstep in closing arguments by the defense was trying to paint Andrew Young as an orchestrator of the baby mama plot—to hide mistress Rielle Hunter. That seems like a stretch of an argument. It was enough to attack Young’s credibility due to his lies. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, Edwards will appeal. The prosecution will not be able to appeal a loss. And if Edwards loses this case, he will face far more than the 6 month sentence offered to him.
While Edwards had success with juries, he’s not the one trying the case. He’s the one on trial. And that makes a huge difference. As a trial lawyer, it’s often agony waiting for a jury to return with a verdict. It’s nothing an attorney can do but wait. For Edwards, it’s all over except the verdict.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.