After seven days, jurors are still deliberating over the fate of John Edwards. Why is it taking so long? The answer is simple: jurors are taking their role seriously and want to deliver a just verdict. Based on the evidence.
If jurors were rendering a verdict based on whether they thought John Edwards was a stellar man with a strong moral and ethical compass, the verdict would likely have been announced days ago. If jurors were rendering a verdict based on instinct rather than evidence, they would not have made numerous requests for trial exhibits, or accepted Judge Eagles’ offer to move more than 500 trial exhibits into the deliberation room for review.
There are some who say a quick criminal verdict favors the prosecution and a lengthly deliberation process favors the defense. How does it play out? Remember these infamous verdicts?
- OJ Simpson jurors deliberated less than 4 hours and acquitted him on two counts of murder.
- Robert Blake jurors deliberated more than 9 days and acquitted him of murder.
- Scott Peterson jurors deliberated for 7 days and found him guilty on two counts of murder.
- Phil Spector jurors deliberated more than 30 hours and convicted him of murder.
- Casey Anthony jurors deliberated just shy of 11 hours and acquitted her of murder.
- Rod Blagojevich jurors (in the first trial) deliberated 14 days and ended up with a mistrial. Jurors in the second trial deliberated 10 days and ultimately convicted him on charges of corruption.
The jury charge in a murder trial– while still complex and full of legalese– is a walk in the park compared to the verdict form the Edwards jurors are deliberating. Jurors are being asked to determine whether John Edwards violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). Our own government experts can’t agree on the issue, yet we are asking a panel of twelve jurors to do just that.
Of course it’s going to take the jury a while to sort things out. After all, they are not “experts” in the field of campaign finance or government regulations. The jury includes a retired fireman, a special education teacher, a plumber, two mechanics, a retired railroad engineer, a corporate VP, a retired accountant and four other folks just like you and me who must digest, understand and interpret 17 days of evidence and render a verdict on an extremely complicated charge.
I, for one, am glad they are taking their time. Their time and energy spent deliberating does not necessarily signal a “win” for Edwards or even a hung jury. What is does signal is a jury committed to doing the absolute best they can with the information they’ve been provided.
To borrow the words of Steve Friedland, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Eton University School of Law:
Jury verdicts are not always like fast food, delivered neatly wrapped in short order. Instead, verdicts are sometimes like a fine meal that takes a long time to prepare. That is what is occurring in the Edwards case, and the result may be all the better for it.”