Fifth day ends without verdict in ex-Senator Edwards' trial

GREENSBORO, North Carolina Thu May 24, 2012 6:44pm EDT

1 of 2. Former U.S. Senator John Edwards (R) and his daughter, Cate Edwards leave for lunch during the jury deliberations at the federal courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina May 24, 2012. Edwards is charged with accepting excessive campaign funds to conceal his extramarital affair while he ran for president. A fifth day of jury deliberations got under way on Thursday in Edwards' campaign finance case, which legal experts have said could expand the definition of what qualifies as campaign contributions.

Credit: Reuters/John Adkisson

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GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Jurors deciding the fate of former U.S. Senator John Edwards in his campaign finance trial appeared on Thursday to be immersed in a detailed review of money spent by a supporter on the ex-presidential candidate's mistress and political aide.

The North Carolina jury asked for a closer look at 20 more pieces of evidence on their fifth day of deliberations on whether Edwards broke federal election laws when he ran for president.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles asked the 12 jurors if they would like to have all of the trial exhibits at their disposal.

"Sounds like a great idea," a male juror said as other members of the panel nodded.

Jurors have nearly four weeks of testimony and hundreds of exhibits to weigh as they determine whether Edwards, 58, conspired to use more than $900,000 from two supporters to conceal his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he chased the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

Much of the government evidence requested by the jury on Thursday detailed the private plane flights and high-end accommodations paid by Edwards' campaign finance chairman Fred Baron for Hunter and ex-aide Andrew Young during the campaign.

Hunter, Young and his family embarked on a months-long trek to evade the media that included stays in Florida, Colorado and California after Young falsely claimed paternity of the baby that Edwards fathered with Hunter.

Prosecutors said Edwards sought money from Baron and heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon to protect his political image. But the defense argued the payments were personal gifts intended to keep his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, from learning he had fathered a child with Hunter. Elizabeth Edwards died in 2010.

Jurors asked to see a handwritten note from Baron to Young that read, "Old Chinese saying: use cash, not credit cards!" and a defense chart showing how much money Young and his wife received from Baron and Mellon.

The list of requested exhibits also included video of a 2008 ABC "Nightline" interview during which Edwards falsely denied fathering Hunter's child and said he did not know about donor money having been used to hide his affair.

Jurors previously sought exhibits that might shed light on Mellon's motivation for giving the money.

The jury must reach a unanimous verdict to convict the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential nominee of charges including conspiring to solicit the money, receiving more than the $2,300 allowed from any one donor, and failing to report the payments as contributions.

Edwards faces possible prison time and fines if he is found guilty in a case legal experts have said could expand the definition of what qualifies as campaign contributions.

Deliberations will resume on Friday.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Vicki Allen and Eric Beech)