The Edwards verdict

Well, I was definitely right to predict a hung jury.  Not that I’m all surprised that the acquitted on the charge on an illegal donation to his campaign after the campaign was already over.  I’ve long thought that on a legal basis, this case was ridiculous.  The very fact that the prosecution tried to make this case all about sex and tawdry cover-ups and not campaign finance law tells you about the weakness of their case.

That said, I figured, given the ambiguity of campaign finance law– of course not having your affair exposed makes it more likely you can win an election, and of course money to cover up an affair is not a campaign contribution– and the fact that the point of the prosecution was to make Edwards look like a horrible cad would convince at least some jurors that he was guilty on some charges.  And that was obviously the case.  But I certainly did not think you could get 12 people to agree that this was a campaign finance violation because there’s absolutely no way it is a campaign finance violation beyond a reasonable doubt.  As if the fact that two former Federal Elections Chairmen said this wasn’t a violation is not enough.  Honestly, I still feel the judge made a mistake in allowing the case to go forward.  Just a massive waste of government resources.

Obviously, John Edwards’ public life is ruined.  But it already was.  I certainly cannot imagine a re-trial here and what people will remember is the one acquittal.  The whole thing is a sorry mess and prosecutorial over-reach really didn’t help.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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