Manafort juror: 1 holdout prevented 18-count conviction
Washington – A juror in Paul Manafort’s financial fraud trial says a lone holdout prevented the jury from convicting the onetime Trump campaign chairman on all 18 counts.
Jurors repeatedly tried to persuade the holdout to “look at the paper trail” but she insisted there was reasonable doubt, juror Paula Duncan told Fox News.
“We didn’t want it to be hung, so we tried for an extended period of time to convince her,” Duncan said, adding that the four days of deliberations were so heated that there were “tears” among the 12 jurors. “But in the end, she held out and that’s why we have 10 counts they did not get a verdict.”
The federal jury on Tuesday found Manafort guilty on eight counts; the judge declared a mistrial on 10 counts the jury was deadlocked on.
Duncan, a self-described Trump supporter who was photographed for the Fox report in a red “Make America Great Again” hat, said she and 10 other jurors were prepared to find Manafort guilty of each count in the indictment. Duncan said she considered the charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to be legitimate and considered the evidence “overwhelming.”
“I did not want Paul Manafort to be guilty, but he was,” Duncan said. “And no one is above the law.”
She said neither positive nor negative sentiments about Trump influenced the decision.
“I think we all went in there like we were supposed to and assumed that Mr. Manafort was innocent. We did due diligence,” Duncan said. “We applied the evidence, our notes, the witnesses, and we came up with the guilty verdicts on the eight counts.”
She said the president’s administration did come up during deliberations because of testimony that Manafort had tried to secure a White House position for a banker who authorized millions of dollars in loans for him and had lobbied Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“The charges were legitimate but the prosecution tried to make the case about the Russian collusion right from the beginning and, of course, the judge shut them down on that,” Duncan said. “We did waste a bit of time with that shenanigan.”
Duncan also said she would have liked to have heard more from Manafort’s defense. Manafort did not testify at trial and his lawyers conducted mostly limited questioning of the government’s witnesses.
Duncan’s comments in the interview Wednesday came the same day that the trial judge unsealed several transcripts of closed bench conferences. One transcript showed that the defense had privately sought a mistrial because of comments a juror was quoted as making about the weakness of Manafort’s defense.
The disclosure by one juror of another juror’s remarks on the ninth day of Manafort’s trial prompted U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to question jurors about whether the comment would affect their ability to make a fair and impartial verdict. Juror names are blacked out in the transcripts.
Ellis denied Manafort’s motion, saying that after considering the circumstances carefully and questioning each juror about their ability to be impartial, a mistrial wasn’t warranted.
Defense lawyers did not press the issue in public, and after the jury’s verdict, Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing took care to praise Ellis for a fair trial and the jury “for their very long and hard-fought deliberations.”