Libby Jury Ends Ninth Day With More Questions, No Verdict

Monday, March 5th 2007, 11:09 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Jurors completed their ninth day of deliberations Monday without a verdict in the perjury trial of ex-White House aide I. Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, but before finishing they asked three more questions about one charge.

The seven women and four men were told they would get answers when they resume work Tuesday.

The note with the jury's latest questions was not made public.

But a brief courtroom debate between U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, prosecutors and defense lawyers _ with the jury out of the room _ indicated the questions related to a charge that Libby lied to the FBI about a telephone conversation he had with Time magazine's Matt Cooper in 2003 concerning CIA operative Valerie Plame.

There was no way to tell from the court discussion Monday how far along the jury has come in weighing its verdicts on the five felony counts against the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Jurors had asked a different question about the same count last week but resolved their question even before Walton could determine exactly what they were asking.

Walton and the lawyers decided to finish answers to the new questions Tuesday. But their debate revealed that jurors had asked whether they could use Libby's grand jury testimony, which was played in court, as evidence that Libby lied during an earlier FBI interview.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said the answer should be ``yes'' in the sense that all the evidence in the case helped establish Libby's state of mind. Libby's lawyers said the grand jury testimony could not be proof of the earlier statement. Walton agreed with both arguments, but said an instruction encompassing both would have to be crafted carefully.

Libby is accused of lying to the bureau and a grand jury about how he learned Plame was the wife of a prominent Iraq war critic and worked at the CIA and about with whom he discussed that information. Libby says any inaccuracies in his statements were the result of his faulty memory.

Earlier Monday, Walton asked the jurors to clarify a question about the term ``reasonable doubt'' and how it should be applied to a reference to the Cooper conversation in another count _ that Libby obstructed an investigation of the leak of Plame's identity and job. There was no public indication the jury had decided how to clarify their question about that count.

Cooper says Libby confirmed for him that Plame worked for the CIA. Libby says he told Cooper he had heard that from other reporters but did not know if it was true.

The five charges against Libby carry a combined top penalty of 30 years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines would call for a far shorter sentence _ possibly one to three years _ even if he were convicted of all five counts.