Juror: Libby Was "The Fall Guy"

Denis Collins, a juror in the perjury trial of former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, talks to the press regarding the guilty verdict, Tuesday, March 6, 2007, outside federal court in Washington. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Jurors in the Libby trial turned their deliberation room into one big visual aid, plastering the walls with dozens of poster-size summaries of witness testimony.

They pushed two long tables together, pored over testimony, reviewed their notes and spent a week just laying out the evidence.

But in the end, it came down to credibility — and they simply did not believe the former White House aide's story. One juror also said Libby was being made a scapegoat.

"There was a tremendous amount of sympathy for Mr. Libby on the jury. It was said a number of times, 'What are we doing with this guy here? Where's Rove? Where are these other guys?'" juror Denis Collins said. "I'm not saying we didn't think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of. It seemed like he was, as Mr. Wells put it, he was the fall guy."

"There were good managerial type people on this jury who took everything apart and put it in the right place," Collins said after he and his colleagues convicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI. "After that, it wasn't a matter of opinion. It was just there."

Prosecutors said Libby lied about how he learned the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame and whom he told. Libby said he told investigators his best recollection of his conversations, but, in the heat of his demanding work schedule, forgot some details or made errors.

Libby's lawyers urged jurors not to convict a man for being forgetful, and jurors took that to heart. They did not immediately vote in the jury room, opting instead to assess the evidence before taking a poll

"It was a very tough question to get through, to try to figure out whether he could have forgotten," juror Jeff Comer said. "Everyone has their moments of forgetfulness."

Libby testified that he learned Plame's identity from Cheney, forgot it, then learned it again a month later from NBC reporter Tim Russert. Prosecutors say that was a convenient story crafted to conceal the fact that Libby discussed official government information.

"There was no smoking gun," Comer said.

Instead, jurors relied on the testimony of several government officials and journalists who said they discussed Plame with Libby. Jurors made a list of nine people who talked to Libby about Plame, and Collins remembered one juror making an observation.

"If I'm told something once, I'm likely to forget it," Collins recalled the juror saying. "If I'm told it many times, I'm less likely to forget it. If I myself tell it to someone else, I'm even less likely to forget it."

Collins, a former Washington Post reporter, said jurors wanted to hear from others involved in the case, including Bush political adviser Karl Rove, who was one of two sources for the original leak. Defense attorneys originally said both Libby and Cheney would be witnesses and Rove was on the potential witness list.

But if the defense had called Cheney to the stand, there was the chance that the vice president might have been ripped apart by the prosecution, according to CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger. And that could have made Libby look even worse.

Collins said he was intrigued when defense lawyer Theodore Wells raised the idea the Libby was being made a scapegoat for Rove. Comer said he can only recall that idea coming up once.

"For me, I really needed to focus on the charge in front of us," Comer said. "There was this background noise, but it played almost no role for me."

During opening statements, Wells told jurors the only way he would lose the case was if they allowed their feelings about the Iraq war and the Bush administration to influence their decision. But Collins said neither topic came up.

"The people who led us were strict taskmasters. Let's stick to the facts," Collins said. "This was not a case about, 'Who can we punish for going into Iraq?' We didn't go there. This wasn't about the war."

  • Scott Conroy On Twitter»

    Scott Conroy is a National Political Reporter for RealClearPolitics and a contributor for CBS News.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.