The jury in the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort indicated Tuesday it is split on at least one count and asked the judge for instructions on how to proceed.
Around 11 a.m. of the panel’s fourth day of deliberations, a note with a question came from the jury foreman. “Your honor, if we cannot come to a consensus on a single count, how should we fill in the jury verdict form for that count,” the note said, according to U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, “and what does that mean for the final verdict?”
The jurors also asked for another verdict form.
Before calling the jury into the courtroom to answer the question, Ellis said the note was “not an exceptional or unusual event in a jury trial” and conferred with lawyers in the case on the wording of his response.
Ellis said he might be open to accepting a partial verdict at a later point, but not yet.
Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing argued jurors should have a new verdict form that would give them the option to be undecided on the charges. The “third option should be hung as to each count,” said Downing, who added that the jury “shouldn’t be misled” into thinking that a hung jury is inappropriate.
Prosecutor Greg Andres objected to that suggestion, saying such a form goes against the judge’s instruction for the jury to keep deliberating. The judge agreed, saying that if the jurors still can’t come to a consensus after he sends them back to continue deliberating, then he would “ask them to tell me where they stand.”
When the jurors were brought into the courtroom, Ellis told them only that if they failed to agree on a verdict, the case would be “left open and undecided,” and that there was no reason another 12 jurors could decide the case “better or more exhaustively” than they could. He told jurors not to yield their beliefs, but asked them to consider whether they stood in the minority, and if so, whether they should change their minds.
Juries are permitted to return partial verdicts, in which they reach a unanimous decision of conviction or acquittal on some — but not all — of the counts against a defendant. In those circumstances, the acquittal or conviction will stand as the trial outcome for those specific charges, but prosecutors must then decide if they want to retry the defendant on the counts that resulted in a deadlock. During deliberations, judges encourage juries that say they are stuck on part or all of a case to keep trying to reach a unanimous verdict.
Manafort, who has worked on Republican presidential campaigns dating back to Gerald R. Ford, faces 18 bank fraud and tax charges. The trial in Alexandria, Va., began three weeks ago, and the jury began deliberating on Thursday.
After the panel went home Monday, Downing said outside the courthouse that his client was happy to see the jury continues to deliberate. “He thinks it was a very good day,” said Downing.
Prosecutors charge that from 2010 to 2014, Manafort hid more than $15 million from the IRS — money he made as a political consultant in Ukraine.
When that income ended in 2014, authorities charge Manafort lied to banks to get millions of dollars more in loans to support his extravagant lifestyle.
On Thursday, the jury asked Ellis to clarify some legal elements in the case that had been raised by the defense team. Since then, its members have deliberated without asking for further guidance.
Manafort, 69, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges in the case. His trial is the first to emerge from the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
The president has repeatedly spoken out publicly in support of Manafort, both at the trial’s outset and during jury deliberations.
On Monday morning, Trump tweeted that Mueller’s investigators “are enjoying ruining people’s lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side — the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more! Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace!”
Michael Brice-Saddler contributed to this report.