May 25, 2012 / 3:25 PM / 6 years ago

John Edwards' trial jury ends week with no verdict

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - The sixth day of jury deliberations in former U.S. Senator John Edwards’ federal campaign finance trial ended without a verdict on Friday after the judge held a closed-court session about an undisclosed juror matter.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles recessed jurors until Tuesday, giving them a long Memorial Day weekend break from their discussions about whether Edwards broke the law while trying to hide his affair with Rielle Hunter as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Eagles told the jury not to read about the case and to discuss it among themselves only with all 12 members of the panel present.

The judge’s reminder came after she cleared the media and public from the courtroom in Greensboro for about 30 minutes on Friday afternoon to discuss a jury issue with Edwards and both sets of attorneys.

Eagles did not explain the issue after the courtroom reopened. She said she might have to discuss it again with the parties when the proceedings resumed on Tuesday.

After court, defense attorney Abbe Lowell refused to disclose the contents of the closed session.

Former U.S. Senator John Edwards leaves 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. REUTERS/John Adkisson

Edwards, 58, is accused of seeking more than $900,000 from heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and trial lawyer Fred Baron to keep voters from learning he was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife, Elizabeth, as he ran for president four years ago.

The defense says the payments were intended as personal gifts - not campaign contributions - to shield Elizabeth Edwards from finding out about her husband’s affair with Hunter and her pregnancy with his child. Elizabeth Edwards died in 2010.

Jurors have hundreds of trial exhibits to help decide the fate of the one-term senator from North Carolina, who served as John Kerry’s running mate on the Democrats’ 2004 White House ticket.

The jury in recent days requested closer inspection of evidence that details the money spent by the two wealthy donors to support and hide Hunter during the campaign.

Edwards faces possible prison time and fines if convicted of any of six felony counts stemming from those payments. The charges include conspiring to solicit the money, receiving more than the $2,300 allowed from any one donor, and failing to report the payments as contributions.

Four alternate jurors have remained on standby throughout the deliberations in the event someone is needed to take another juror’s place.

Although they are not part of the ongoing discussions, they drew attention at week’s end by appearing in court in color-coordinated shirts. They all wore yellow on Thursday, and opted for red on Friday.

Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Peter Cooney

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