It should have never even gone to trial. That's what one juror, Theresa Fuller, said the morning after the John Edwards case ended in a mistrial, with a verdict on just one of six counts. When the jurors themselves are saying the prosecution should have never brought the case against Edwards, it's clear this was a huge blunder for prosecutors and a misguided effort.
Yes, John Edwards is a bad man who lied and cheated, but like I said from day one, there was no way to prove he did anything criminal. Jurors acquitted Edwards of only the most obvious count, dealing with a $200,000 check Bunny Mellon wrote as the campaign was collapsing in 2008, a check that wasn't cashed until after the campaign ended. Clearly, that money was not intended as a campaign contribution as it wasn't even cashed until after.
It seems like from their interviews jurors were split on the other counts, some leaning towards finding him guilty, others leaning towards acquittal, but the one thing they all agreed on: the evidence was just not there. Jurors say prosecutors were unable to meet the burden of proof needed to convict Edwards. The biggest problem: much of this money was funneled through his campaign aide, Andrew Young, and then given to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, to help cover-up the affair. Scandalous, no doubt, but how does that sound like money intended for his presidential campaign and not just a personal gift? One juror, Sheila Lockwood, even said, "he didn't get the money. So I just didn't think he was guilty."
Now, prosecutors are tasked with deciding whether to retry the case. My advice: quit before you embarrass yourself even more! The only reason to retry the case is if there truly was just one or two holdout jurors standing in the way of a conviction. And even then, the only way to retry a case successfully is to simplify the charges, as we saw after former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's first case ended in a mistrial on 23 counts. The second time around, prosecutors focused on the main charges that he sold Barack Obama's senate seat, as opposed to tackling a litany of charges like in the first case. The problem here is there's no way to simplify the charges.
The case was whether or not he knowingly and illegally misused campaign funds for the cover-up and the case was doomed from the start. Baron passed away and Mellon was too old to testify so the only person who could connect the dots and tie the money to the campaign was Young, and between the fact that he first claimed paternity of Hunter's child and then later wrote a book about the scandal didn't help his cause. Young was an unreliable witness, and he was the star witness? No wonder Edwards turned to his lawyers after the prosecution rested and asked "that's their case?"
Federal Elections Commission workers were even willing to testify for the defense that Edwards did not violate campaign finance laws, though judge Catherine Eagles banned much of their testimony. The FEC completed their investigation and found Edwards had not misused campaign funds, so why did prosecutors keep on with their misguided effort? Like everything in this case, it all came down to politics. George Holding, the U.S. Attorney at the time Edwards was charged in 2011, is now running for congress as a Republican candidate and what better platform to run on than to be known as the man responsible for indicting John Edwards. With Holding now on his own campaign trail, the remaining prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's office were left to try a case that should have never been brought forth in the first place.
John Edwards could have spared himself the media circus of the case by accepting a plea deal, which would have spared him any jail time, but would have required he give up his own license to practice law. Yet, Edwards knew this case was a waste and even commended the jurors Thursday, saying the decision was "an exemplar of what jurors are supposed to do." Edwards also told reporters "While I don't believe I did anything illegal or even thought I was doing anything illegal I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong," but added "I don't think God's through with me. I really believe he thinks there's still some good things I can do." I'm not sure what the future holds for Edwards, lets just hope he, like this waste of a trial, is slowly forgotten!
Follow Mari Fagel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MariFagel