GREENSBORO, N.C. – A federal judge on Monday dismissed 47 potential jurors from the coming John Edwards trial, many because they said they couldn’t fairly weigh evidence involving the former Democratic presidential candidate.
U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles made her decisions Monday based on written questionnaires from 185 people summoned last week to the federal courthouse in Greensboro. Most of those dismissed indicated they had made up their minds about Edwards’ guilt or innocence of alleged campaign-finance violations based on media reports. Others were dismissed because they had medical conditions or personal hardships that would make it difficult for them to be present for the trial, which is expected to last about six weeks.
Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to nearly $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy campaign donors that was used to hide his pregnant mistress as he sought the White House in 2008.
Opening arguments are scheduled to begin next Monday.
Eagles said about 50 of the remaining people from the jury pool will be recalled Tuesday so she can ask questions based on their earlier written answers. Twelve jurors will be seated for the trial, along with four alternates.
Also on Monday, prosecutors and Edwards’ defense team submitted lengthy lists of exhibits they intend to use in the trial.
The prosecution list includes more than 700 items, including campaign videos, voicemails left by Edwards for his former aide Andrew Young and emails and notes from Edwards’ mistress Rielle Young and from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the 101-year-old socialite who provided much of the cash at issue in the case.
Much of the money flowed to Young, once so close to Edwards that he falsely claimed paternity of the baby that Edwards fathered with Hunter and invited the pregnant woman to live with him and his wife in their home near Chapel Hill. The exhibit list also includes copies of receipts for private jets and luxury hotels provided to Hunter and the Youngs after they fled their home, embarking on a cross-country journey intended to throw tabloid reporters and paparazzi photographers off the trail of the married politician’s visibly pregnant mistress.
After repeated public denials, Edwards acknowledged he was the father of Hunter’s daughter in 2010. The girl, now 4, lives with her mother in Charlotte.
The exhibit list filed by Edwards’ lawyers includes a copy of the tell-all book that Andrew Young wrote about his experience, which the former aide later acknowledged contains inaccuracies — mistakes that the defense may use to try to undercut his credibility as a key government witness. The list also contains bank and financial records from the Youngs, which could indicate the defense will argue that much of the secret money was diverted by the couple for personal use.
Neither side indicated they will show the jury a video Hunter filmed of an intimate encounter with Edwards that was the subject of an extensive legal fight between the mistress and the Youngs, who found the tape and claimed ownership of it. A settlement reached earlier this year in state court dictates that all copies of the video be destroyed, though statements made in court indicate government investigators may have retained a copy.
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