(GREENSBORO, N.C.) — Nearly a quarter of the potential jurors in the criminal trial of former Sen. John Edwards were dismissed on Monday after the judge determined that many of them had tracked the case too closely and may have had difficulty weighing the evidence fairly, according to reports.
Jury selection is scheduled to continue on Tuesday, as the remaining jurors are questioned in open court by the judge and attorneys for both sides. The trial is set to open next Monday with twelve jurors and four alternates ultimately selected to hear the evidence and determine Edwards’ fate.
Edwards was charged last June in a six-count indictment alleging his complicity in a conspiracy to solicit hundreds of thousands of dollars from two wealthy donors to support and seclude his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter. Crucially, the indictment alleges the money was used “for the purposes of influencing an election” for federal office, specifically as a means of protecting and advancing Edwards’ candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.
For Edwards’ defense team, finding the right mix of jurors in such a high-profile case involving an immensely unpopular defendant is critical and could prove difficult.
“I think that does pose a significant problem for the defense,” says Melanie Sloan, executive director of the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Edwards. “Everybody in America hates John Edwards. He was cheating on his cancer stricken wife. You really can’t get lower than that. But by the same token, I think Americans can judge facts impartially and they can look at the situation and say, ‘yes, having an affair and doing what he did is terrible, but that doesn’t make it a crime.’”
Edwards pleaded not guilty last June to all of the charges. His defense team has characterized the money received from the donors as gifts not subject to election finance laws. There are no allegations in the indictment that any of that money passed through Edwards’ presidential campaign coffers.
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