John Edwards trial closing arguments: Challenges for both sides

(CBS News) GREENSBORO, N.C. - Closing arguments begin Thursday in the federal corruption trial of John Edwards, after his lawyers suddenly brought their case to an end.

The jury won't hear from the former senator and Democratic presidential hopeful.

Edwards' defense team took just three days to make its case, then rested Wednesday without calling Edwards, his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, or even his daughter, Cate, to the stand.

Jury deliberations could begin Friday.

Edwards hasn't spoken in public since October, and the trial was no exception. He chose not to appear as a witness.

It's a decision former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan says his defense attorneys will have to address in their closing argument.

"The jurors," he says, "are gonna be told not to hold that against him. But, he told the jury in opening argument through his lawyers that he wasn't afraid of the truth, and he wanted the truth to come out. So, they're going to have to figure out how to deal with that issue."

His attorneys instead chose to focus on trying to convince the jury that Edwards didn't violate campaign finance laws.

They called witnesses such as Edwards' friend, John Moylan, who testified that Edwards, "was as surprised to hear it as I was" when learning about substantial checks written by wealthy donor Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.

She and former campaign finance manager Fred Baron provided nearly $1 million - some of which was used to cover up Edwards' affair with Hunter.

CBS News legal analyst Jack Ford discussed the closing arguments with "CBS This Morning" co-hosts Charlie Rose and Erica Hill. To get Ford's insight, click on this video:

The defense also hammered away at the prosecution's star witness, former campaign aide Andrew Young, by presenting witnesses such as former Edwards staffer Elizabeth Nicholas, who said she found Young "to be dishonest."

They also introduced evidence showing that much of the money at issue ended up in Young family bank accounts.

The prosecution's case, meanwhile, centers around Young himself, who traveled around the country with his family, hiding Hunter.

He and a string of other witnesses suggested Edwards knew more about the money than he claimed.

And prosecutors finished by showcasing Edwards' lies in a national ABC segment.

"I think," says Shanahan, "Edwards is up against the trail of lies he told, because that will loom largely in the courtroom."

Now, the jury has to decide what - and who - they believe.

Also important: the judge's instructions to the jury. They're technical. But they could make a big difference in this case -- in what she tells the jury about how to look at campaign contributions.

To see Anna Werner's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Anna Werner

Comments

Follow Us

The Newsroom