Jefferson jury done for day
04:55 PM CDT on Thursday, July 30, 2009
Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The jury in the trial of former Congressman William Jefferson retired for the day after about four hours of deliberations. They will return Friday at 9:30 am EST.
The jury officially began deliberating shortly after 1 p.m. following three hours of instruction from Judge T.S. Ellis III and then lunch.
The morning began with lawyers from both sides quibbling over wording in jury instructions, which was done without the jury present.
Once the arguments over the wording were finished, shortly before 10 a.m. Ellis began reading the instructions to jury, which included a long list of legal of definitions and an explanation of all 16 counts against Jefferson. A court reporter was present and a transcript will be provided for the jury.
A great deal of time was spent by Ellis on a specific count that accuses Jefferson of taking $100,000 in government-marked bills, which according to federal prosecutors, was used to bribe the vice president of Nigeria nearly four years ago.
This is the one count the defense did not include in their motion to throw out the remaining 15 counts. Jefferson’s defense attorney Robert Trout said he didn’t include it because, while he thinks it’s a weak argument, he believed there is enough evidence for the judge to decide to have it go to the jury.
While the money was never given to the vice president, a majority of the bills were found inside Jefferson’s freezer. Ellis emphasized to the jury that the payment didn’t necessarily have to have been made for the defendant to be found guilty, rather federal prosecutors had to prove that Jefferson intended to bribe someone.
"The fact the defendant did not testify may not be discussed by the jury,” Ellis told jurors.
“You’re expected to use good sense…you as jurors are the sole judges of the credibility of all the witnesses," he added.
Trout asked Ellis how long he intended to allow jurors to deliberate Thursday before he calls an end to the day’s deliberation.
Ellis said he would call back into the courtroom around 5:30 or 6 p.m. and ask them if they want to continue any longer for the night or if they want to go home and resume deliberations Friday.