GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - The seventh day of jury deliberations in former Senator John Edwards’ federal campaign finance trial brought firm reminders and a bit of levity on Tuesday but no decision about whether he broke the law while running for president.
U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles told jurors she wanted to “re-focus their attention” on the importance of not independently researching the case or reading about it.
She said it was crucial for them to keep their deliberations secret and to discuss the case only with all 12 members of the panel present in the jury room.
Edwards, 58, a one-term senator from North Carolina, is accused of seeking more than $900,000 from two supporters to keep voters from learning he was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination four years ago.
The defense says the payments were intended as personal gifts, not campaign contributions, to shield Elizabeth Edwards from her husband’s affair with Rielle Hunter and Hunter’s pregnancy with his child. Elizabeth Edwards died in 2010.
The jury must reach a unanimous verdict to convict Edwards on any of the six felony charges against him.
Although deliberations on Tuesday ended without a verdict, Eagles created a minor stir in the courtroom with her description of the jury’s progress late in the afternoon.
“The jury sent me a note that they have reached a, uh...,” the judge said, taking an extended pause, “good stopping point for the day.”
The packed room erupted in laughter and Eagles smiled.
Jurors gave little indication they were close to reaching a decision. Back from a three-day holiday weekend, they informed Eagles of some upcoming scheduling conflicts.
The judge said she would extend the next couple days of deliberations to accommodate their personal requests as the trial has stretched into a sixth week.
“It appears to be high school graduation season,” she said.
Eagles did not shed any light on the private meetings she held over two days with Edwards and both sides of attorneys about an undisclosed “juror issue.”
On Tuesday morning, an alternate juror who has been the subject of media reports about her smiling in Edwards’ direction was seen being ushered in and out of the courtroom during the closed session.
The woman is not participating in deliberations but remains on standby with the three other alternates in case a member of the main jury needs to be replaced.
Edwards, the Democrats’ 2004 vice presidential nominee, faces possible prison time and fines if found guilty 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.
Editing by Doina Chiacu and Bill Trott