By Richard Simon, Tribune Washington Bureau –
WASHINGTON — After more than 50 hours of deliberations over nine days, juror Sheila Lockwood just didn’t think there was enough evidence to convict John Edwards of campaign finance violations.
“He didn’t get the money, so I just didn’t think he was guilty,” Lockwood told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.
She was among the jurors from the former presidential candidate’s Greensboro, N.C., trial who hit the airwaves to talk about their decision to acquit Edwards of one charge of violating campaign finance law and deadlock on five others.
“I felt like the evidence just wasn’t there,” added juror Theresa Fuller.
Another juror, Ladonna Foster told NBC’s “Today” that she thought the former North Carolina senator “definitely” had knowledge of where the money was going. But, she too said, “the evidence wasn’t there.”
Edwards was accused of using nearly $1 million from wealthy benefactors to hide his mistress in order to prevent his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination from failing. The defense contended the checks were not political donations but personal gifts to help Edwards hide the affair from his wife.
Jurors described a tense atmosphere inside the jury room during deliberations.
“The emotions got high and we’d have to take a minute, step back and just everyone calm down,” Cindy Aquaro said.
Jury foreman David Recchion said the jury even prayed together.
Jonathan Nunn said he believed the money paid by Edwards’ benefactors to hide the candidate’s mistress was a personal gift as the defense claimed rather than illegal campaign contributions.
Jurors suggested they weren’t swayed by the prosecution’s chief witness, former Edwards aide Andrew Young, whom the defense sought to discredit as an opportunist.
“I think the credibility of the witness was something that was of utmost importance to us,” Recchion said.
Denise Speight, one of four alternate jurors who drew attention for wearing matching outfits, was asked about reports that she had been smiling and perhaps even flirting with Edwards.
“Actually, I was giggling over, I think, the media’s reaction when we walked into the courtroom over our outfits and color. I had no intention of flirting with John Edwards and I don’t think he had any intentions of blushing or flirting back with me.”
The Justice Department hasn’t said whether it will seek to retry Edwards on the five charges on which the judge declared a mistrial.
But Recchion said, “There needs to be some change in campaign finance law before you go through this process and kind of nailing down what really is and what really isn’t a campaign contribution.”