LONDON (AP) — A British judge told jurors Wednesday that there was no doubt Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct News of the World had violated the privacy of phone-hacking victims, but it's up to the jury to decide "who and at what senior level of the paper" was involved.
Judge John Saunders began summing up at the trial of former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, and five others, on charges related to wrongdoing at Murdoch's British tabloids. All the defendants deny the charges.
The jury will retire to consider its verdicts in the next few days, after more than seven months of testimony and argument at London's Central Criminal Court.
Saunders told the eight women and three men they should ignore the "vitriol" that has been leveled at Brooks and Coulson on Twitter and elsewhere. He said they should also set aside any sympathy they might feel for the defendants — including Brooks' husband and her former personal assistant — who have endured a lengthy trial in the media glare.
Murdoch shut down the News of the World in 2011 after evidence emerged that its staff had eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and crime victims.
The scandal soon ensnared the media, police and political establishments in Britain, where Murdoch's newspapers wield substantial political clout. Brooks was a friend of Prime Minister David Cameron and Coulson was the prime minister's communications director for several years.
Saunders told the jurors not to be "dazzled" by the success and power that the likes of Brooks and Coulson had achieved.
"Respect their success, but everyone is subject to the law of the land and no one is so powerful they can ignore the law," the judge said.
"If there have been wild theories, ignore them," he said. "If there has been gloss and packaging, cut through it. ... Everyone is equal before the court."