GREENSBORO, N.C. — With the jury at the John Edwards trial set to begin deliberations for a seventh day on Tuesday, speculation grows that the 12 people charged with deciding the fate of the former presidential candidate may be deadlocked.

Edwards faces six felony charges in a case involving nearly $1 million provided by two wealthy political donors to help hide the Democrat's pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.

To determine Edwards' guilt or innocence, the jury must sift through notes from 17 days of testimony and review about 500 trial exhibits, many of them voluminous phone and financial records. They must not only determine whether the candidate knew about the secret payments, which he has denied, but whether he realized he was violating federal law by allowing them.

That requires the jury to navigate a web of laws so complicated that even campaign finance experts disagree on whether the money used in the cover-up qualify as political contributions, which were then limited to $2,300 per person. Although U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles said the issue appeared straightforward to her, the jury instructions took nearly an hour to read and left many on the jury looking dazed.

"This is a pretty complex chore," said Kieran J. Shanahan, a former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney who has attended nearly every day of the trial. "There's a lot to digest and come to an agreement on. One full week of deliberations is nothing to hit the panic button on. But if it goes another week, that indicates the likelihood of a split verdict or hung jury."

Federal law defines campaign contributions as money given with the intent of influencing the outcome of an election. But neither of the donors who gave the money testified about their thinking on the issue.

Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a 101-year-old heiress, was deemed too frail to travel to court. Those involved in the scheme said she had no idea much of the $725,000 she funneled to an Edwards aide for a "personal expense" was being spent on concealing an extramarital affair.

Fred Baron, a wealthy Texas lawyer who served as Edwards' campaign finance chairman, paid for flights on private jets, luxury hotel rooms and a $20,000 rental mansion in California. He died of bone cancer in late 2008.

Edwards, a former trial lawyer, decided not to take the stand in his own defense. His mistress, Rielle Hunter, was not called to testify.

The jurors deliberate in a windowless conference room, their privacy protected by U.S. Marshals. Their lunch is catered inside.

The group of eight men and four women mostly come from middle-class backgrounds, including a retired fireman, a special education teacher, a plumber, a retired railroad engineer and two mechanics. There are also jurors with strong financial acumen, including a corporate vice president and a retired accountant.

High-profile juries that acquitted a defendant usually did so quickly.

It took less than a day last year for Florida jurors to find Casey Anthony not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. That was after 33 days of testimony, 400 pieces of evidence and 90 witnesses.

The jury that acquitted football star O.J. Simpson of his former wife, Nicole, and her friend Ronald Goldman, made their decision in less than four hours.

And while it is true deliberations lasting several days or even weeks often end in deadlocks, there are examples where juries took a long time to return a guilty verdict.

The jury at the first trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich deliberated 14 days before a mistrial was declared on 23 corruption counts, though they did convict him on one count of making false statements.

Undeterred, federal prosecutors tried Blagojevich again. During his second trial, it took jurors 10 days to convict him on 17 counts of corruption.

The judge at Edwards' trial abruptly closed the courtroom Friday to talk to attorneys about an issue with a juror. She reopened the courtroom after 35 minutes, giving the public no details about what the problem was before sending everyone home for the long holiday weekend.

The jury's behavior drew attention Thursday when the four alternates all wore canary-yellow shirts. On Friday, they all wore bright red shirts, as did two of the 12 jurors deliberating the case.

One of the alternates, a young woman, has also frequently exchanged smiles with Edwards and nodded enthusiastically during closing arguments last week as the former presidential candidate's lawyer urged them to find his client not guilty.

Eagles can dismiss an alternate juror without affecting the trial. But if she dismisses one of the 12 deliberating the case and an alternate takes over, the discussions would have to start all over.

The judge said she would start court early Tuesday to talk about the issue further.

Steve Friedland, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Elon University School of Law, said those waiting for resolution should remain patient.

"Jury verdicts are not always like fast food, delivered neatly wrapped in short order," he said. "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."

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Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck

Below, a timeline of Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter:
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  • Love At First Sight?

    "And when they left, my friend went over and asked Tony if that was John Edwards, and he said yes. And my friend turned to me and said, 'See, I told you it was John Edwards.' And then I came over to the table, and I said, 'I can't believe that was John Edwards; he's so hot. He's really got it going on. He's got something unusual about him, and I never would have recognized him.' And Tony said, 'Oh, my God, you should have come over and told him that. He would have loved to have heard that.'"

  • An Extraordinary Night

    "We had an extraordinary night, and I did know that this was unlike anything either of us had ever experienced. And as we have all learned, that was accurate! [laughs] He in fact did say to me the first night, 'Falling in love with you could really [screw] up my plans for becoming President.' And of course I said, 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.'"

  • The Oddest Connection He Had Ever Felt

    "Well, what Johnny later told me was, he went to dinner and could not stop thinking about me, like, 'Who was that woman, and why didn't I go over and talk to her?' ... So when he walked around the corner and saw me standing there, he lit up like a Christmas tree. And I thought his reaction when he saw me was just so cute. I mean, he looked like a little kid at Christmas. And I just uttered to him, 'You're so hot.' And he said, 'Why, thank you!' And he almost jumped into my arms. Literally. And um, that's how we met. On the corner of 61st and Park Avenue."

  • 'I Had To Sleep With Him'

    "I used to make a joke that I could have helped save the world, but I had to sleep with him. You know? It was kind of like that."

  • Falling In Love

    "I fell in love with Johnny ... He called me the next day. We talked on the phone almost every night for four hours. We met on February 21. On February 25—on the phone, from Davenport, Iowa—I fell in love with him. Head over heels in love. I was a goner."

  • Here's ... Johnny!

    "Isn't that funny? You know, when I first met him, the first week of our relationship, I said to him, 'For some reason I cannot call you John, it doesn't come out. Could I call you Johnny?' And he said, 'That's my name.' And I didn't know that, but that's his actual birth name."

  • Knight In Shining Armor?

    "I had this thing in my head like a lot of women, where you want your man to stand up on a cliff and scream, 'I LOVE HER.' You know, the knight in shining armor. And that wasn't what was going on."

  • On Her Relationship Status

    "I am not engaged."

  • Why She's Talking Now

    "I feel comfortable talking now, because Johnny went public and made a statement admitting paternity. I didn't feel like I could ever speak until he did that. Because had I spoken, I would have emasculated him. And I could not emasculate him. Also, it is not my desire to teach my daughter that when Mommy's upset with Daddy, you take matters into your own hands and fix Daddy's mistakes. Which I view as one of the biggest problems in all female-and-male relationships."

  • Not A Gold Digger

    "I mean, just for starters, I never 'hit on' Johnny. I'm not a predator, I'm not a gold digger, I'm not the stalker. I didn't have any power in that way in our relationship. He held all the power."

  • 'The Wrath Of Elizabeth Is A Mighty Wrath'

    "And I believe what happened in his marriage is, he could not go to his wife and say, 'We have an issue.' Because he would be pummeled. So he had a huge fear. Most of his mistakes or errors in judgment were because of his fear of the wrath of Elizabeth. He's allowed himself to be pushed into a lot of things that he wouldn't normally do because of Elizabeth's story line. And the spin that she wants to put out there. He was emasculated. And you know, the wrath of Elizabeth is a mighty wrath."

  • 'I Was A Bit Promiscuous'

    "I was never, as it's been reported, a drug addict. The word addiction means inability to stop. I stopped doing drugs in my twenties. As for being promiscuous, I would say that I was a bit promiscuous for about six months. But it was because I was partying, and there were a lot of very good-looking available 20-year-old men around that you'd be partying with, and there was a lot of, you know, hooking up going on."

  • A Toxic Relationship

    "[Elizabeth] was in denial about a lot of facts. And I say she was in denial because, you know, their relationship has been dysfunctional and toxic and awful for many, many years. And she was aware of, um, problems and chose to ignore them."

  • 'I Don't Really Believe He Was A Politician'

    "Well, I don't really believe he was a politician. I believe his ego and ambition drove him to that field. I believe he's more aligned with being a humanitarian. That suits his true nature. Just like I wasn't a mistress. You know, I'm not a mistress, but I played the role? I believe he played the role of a politician. It's not who he is. Being a politician was a path of transformation for him, I believe. It's not really what he was put on the planet to do."

  • Not A 'Home Wrecker'

    "And, well, first of all, infidelity doesn't happen in healthy marriages. The break in the marriage happens before the infidelity. And that break happened, you know, two and a half decades before I got there. So the home was wrecked already. I was not the Home Wrecker."

  • Naming Frances Quinn Hunter

    "Her name is Frances Quinn Hunter, and I love the name Frances. Johnny wasn't over the moon about Frances. So I was coming up with names, and Quinn is a name that I loved, and that was the only name that he thought was cool. And so I named her Quinn because Daddy really liked it."

  • Was Andrew Young In Love With Edwards?

    "Andrew [Young] was in love with Johnny...In love with him. Beyond. And I believe he loved Johnny more than he loved Cheri. So Johnny was the third person in their relationship. And I'm sure she hates Johnny, because Andrew took a lot of obvious actions that were for Johnny and not for Cheri. But Cheri went along with them. And they both have a way of spinning things. But a lot of their motivation is money."

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