After a nine-day deadlock over the former presidential candidate’s trial, the jury Thursday finally declared John Edwards not guilty on the charge of accepting illegal campaign contributions while remained undecided on the remaining five charges that involved misuse of money from two wealthy donors to hide his mistress’ pregnancy.
Edwards’ attorney, Abbe Lowell, persistently called the case a mistrial, arguing that the jury’s deliberations were taking as much time as it had taken the prosecution to present the case. Thursday afternoon, when the jury foreman told the judge that the jury had been able to reach an unanimous decision on just one count, acquitting Edwards from the charge of accepting money from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, and the judge ordered the jury to continue the deliberations on the other five counts. When the jury still failed to reach a verdict, the five counts were declared mistrials.
"The entire case depends on determining his intent," Marcellus McRae, a former federal prosecutor had said about Edwards. "Was his intent to influence the outcome of an election or was it to conceal an affair from his wife? When you have to get into mind-reading, that's a hard case to make."
Robert Bittman, who served as a deputy independent counsel in the investigation of President Clinton, noted that the jury tends to give famous people the benefit of doubt even when the facts presented clearly point towards the wrongdoings. "Unlike a theft, robbery or murder, people don't have a visceral reaction to wrongdoing in a case like this," he added.
Following the jury decision on one of the counts, Edwards looked relieved as he hugged his daughter and parents, telling them he knew everything would turn out fine. As he stepped out of the court, in Greensboro, New York, he thanked the jury for their diligence.
“I want to make sure that everyone hears from me … that while I don’t believe I did anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there is no one else responsible for my sins,” said Edwards.
The remaining five charges also revolve around Edwards using illegal campaign funds to hide his affair with the campaign photographer, Rielle Hunter, from his wife, who was dying of cancer at the time. The charges arose when Edwards was running for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election.