Juror: Only Possible Verdict

After a five-week trial, it took the jury in the Martha Stewart case just 12 hours of deliberations to find the lifestyle queen guilty on all four of the counts against her. Stewart has already announced plans to appeal that decision.

Amos Mellinger was a member of the jury that voted to convict and he says the evidence presented made it impossible for Stewart to be found innocent.

The 55-year old-former philosophy professor was juror number 4 and he tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler, after hearing all the reactions from the public, he still feels the same about his decision.

"Definitely, totally. We came to the only verdict that was possible," he said. His comments were echoed by jurors speaking out on other news programs. "We did what we had to do," one said.

Stewart, who could face up to 20 years in prison, was reported Monday to a probation office for processing related to her June 17 sentencing.


Going back inside the jury room for deliberations, Mellinger says, the first thing jurors did was establish that both Stewart and her stock broker, Peter Bacanovic, were both presumed innocent. Then he says, "We went through the charges basically in the order the judge gave them to us. It was basically charges two through eight. Then one, two – one and two were conspiracy so they were dealt with last. Basically, reading the charges, having a full discussion around the table and then bringing forth the evidence that we had, to see whether it went beyond a reasonable doubt in terms of her conviction. And there were times when we asked the judge for information, for transcripts or ruling on law so we could be exactly sure about the evidence fitting the definition of the crime. And then we would vote on them."

Asked if one witness carried more weight than the others and led the jurors to the conviction, Mellinger says, "It really was all in total because different indictments or counts had different evidence that needed to be connected with.

"But certainly Mr. Faneuil was very credible. (Douglas Faneuil, the prosecution's star witness, was Baconovic's stockbroker assistant) He was on the stand for four days, obviously under a lot of pressure and it showed. But he managed to present his testimony and withstood the onslaught of the cross-examination.

"Ann Armstrong (Martha Stewart's assistant) was such a serious credible witness. You could see her breaking in terms of still working for Ms. Stewart and having to say things that, you know, she didn't want to say but she was doing her duty - torn totally. Ms. (Mariana) Pasternack, a friend for 20 years. You could just see, again, the anguish. She didn't have to be there, but she felt she had to be there."

Other jurors said Armstrong, who reluctantly testified that Stewart tried to alter a phone record of a message from her stockbroker, was the key witness leading them to Stewart's conviction Friday.

Armstrong testified that Stewart sat down at Armstrong's desk to change a message from her broker, Peter Bacanovic, informing her that he thought the ImClone stock price would start falling.

"She ultimately gave the testimony that was going to bring Martha down. That was a very important piece," juror Chappell Hartridge said in a televised interview Sunday night.

Stewart's attorney, Robert Morvillo, took what in hindsight appears to be a bare-bones defense. He interviewed a witness for 20 minutes and he did not put Stewart on the stand. Mellinger says the jurors were surprised about Morvillo's decision but added that he did not feel he had to hear from Stewart.

He says, "I assumed that she had the best legal team available in the city or the country. If their strategy was not to have the two defendants speak, that's fine. That's their right. You know, who knows what she could have said, one way or the other."

What would he have wanted to hear Stewart say?

"In the ideal world, evidence that would show she wasn't guilty," Mellinger says, "because who wants to be found guilty of a crime so that would have been the ideal situation."

The fact that celebrities like Rosie O'Donnell and Bill Crosby went to court to support Stewart did not play into any of the juror discussions or deliberations, he notes.

"They were her friends and they had a right to be there. Perhaps the defense had them there in a particular reason, perhaps trying to influence us, but that didn't work. What if her friends hadn't shown up?"

The eight women and four men deliberated 12 hours over three days before convicting Stewart on all four counts against her conspiracy, obstruction and two counts of making false statements.

Both Stewart and Bacanovic, who was convicted of obstruction, making false statements, conspiracy and perjury, have vowed to appeal.

Stewart was convicted of lying to cover up the reason she sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems stock on Dec. 27, 2001, avoiding a hefty loss when the company announced bad news the next day.

Prosecutors had offered Stewart a chance last April to plead guilty to just one of the four charges against her - making a false statement - in exchange for a probation sentence, Newsweek reported Sunday, quoting several unidentified sources close to the case. But a defense source told the magazine that prosecutors could not guarantee that Stewart would avoid jail time and Stewart refused the offer, Newsweek reported.

Asked if he has any ideas or thoughts on the kind of sentence that Stewart should receive, Mellinger says, "Whatever the judge deems appropriate. We had a constrained obligation, whether guilty or not guilty, on certain counts. Then it's up to the judge to see what the punishment is."
  • Tatiana Morales

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