Jurors to receive transcript of instructions in Jefferson trial
11:03 PM CDT on Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Tuesday marks a first for the jury, their inaugural legal question to the judge in a corruption case that's been long and complicated.
Walking into the courthouse has become a familiar walk for Jefferson, but arguably not an easy one, as he leads his family back into the courtroom where a jury must now decide if he was the corrupt congressman prosecutors described in more than five weeks of testimony.
"You now have 12 people who have to make a unanimous decision if they can as to guilt or non guilt based on all that evidence and the law," said Jacob Frenkel, former federal prosecutor.
For the first time, the jurors posed a legal question to the judge about the Jefferson case, and attorneys on both sides had the chance to weigh in. It was the judge who drafted the final version of the court's response to the jury. What it said and what the question was will remain sealed by the court until the end of the trial.
Legal analysts said it's sure to be one of several questions that will come up in the days of deliberating still to come.
One of the most central issues in the trial is whether Jefferson sold his influence and power as a congressman in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, or was he merely acting as a private businessman and consultant collecting what the defense has called “finder’s fees?”
While Jefferson’s attorney has called some of his clients’ actions stupid, he argues they were not illegal.
On a public level, another question is what’s the big issue in this case, what should people know?
“Oh, I think the jury is going to be able to figure this case out," said Defense Attorney Robert Trout.
After four days of deliberating, the jury still hasn’t figured out the case.
On Tuesday the judge offered them a tool. He asked whether they'd like a written transcript of the lengthy juror instructions detailing legal definitions and explanations of the corruption counts. Jurors received the instructions verbally last week and also received audio cassette tapes of the judge's orders.
Last Friday they told the court they no longer needed the transcripts, but the judge said his staff will be done putting them together Wednesday.
The judge posed the question to attorneys, and the prosecution said they see no need for the transcripts, but the defense now wants the jury to have them.
This comes as a change of opinion for the defense from when they spoke to us just last Friday.
The jury is expected to continue its deliberations 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.