7 more potential jurors dismissed in Edwards case

AP News
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Posted: Apr 17, 2012 7:05 PM
7 more potential jurors dismissed in Edwards case

The federal judge overseeing the John Edwards campaign-finance trial on Tuesday dismissed seven more potential jurors as part of the process to select 12 people who can fairly weigh the evidence against the former Democratic presidential contender.

So far, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles has eliminated 54 of the 185 people summoned last week to the courthouse in Greensboro.

Many were dismissed after disclosing medical conditions or plans for family vacations. But some sent home Tuesday questioned Edwards' morals.

"I just think that's poor character," said prospective juror 193 when asked by the judge if he had any opinions about Edwards' extramarital affair while running for president.

Another juror, No. 65, expressed doubt about trusting the expected testimony of Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter.

"I would have to take what she said with a grain of salt," the man told the judge.

Both were dismissed by the judge after their answers cast doubt on whether they could keep an open mind.

Edwards, 58, has pleaded not guilty to six criminal counts related to nearly $1 million in secret payments from two wealthy campaign donors used to hide his pregnant lover as he sought the White House in 2008. Eagles stressed to the jurors that Edwards is not on trial for being a bad husband.

Opening arguments in the case are scheduled for Monday.

The potential jurors were drawn at random from the 24-county federal judicial district covering central North Carolina, which includes Edwards' boyhood hometown of Robbins and the expansive gated estate outside Chapel Hill where he now lives.

A former trial lawyer, Edwards repeatedly conferred with his legal team about the answers from prospective jurors as they were questioned by Eagles.

The judge plans to have the jury pool winnowed down to about 40 prospective jurors by Thursday. On Monday morning, the defense will be allowed to strike 12 and the prosecution eight.

After that, Eagles will select the final 12 jurors and four alternates to begin the trial, which is expected to last at least six weeks.

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Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker on Twitter at twitter.com/mbieseck