A juror in Paul Manafort’s trial says the panel was close to convicting President Trump’s former campaign chairman on all 18 charges against him — but a lone holdout raised questions about reasonable doubt.
Paula Duncan, juror #0302, told Fox News that she supports the president, but that documentary evidence against Manafort in the 16-day-trial proved overwhelming.
“Finding Mr. Manafort guilty was hard for me. I wanted him to be innocent. I really wanted him to be innocent — but he wasn’t,” Duncan said. “That’s the part of a juror. You have to have due diligence and deliberate and look at the evidence and come up with an informed and intelligent decision, which I did.”
Duncan spoke out as new details about drama within the jury room emerged through the release of previously sealed transcripts in the case. Manafort was found guilty on 8 of 18 counts on Tuesday in his federal bank and tax fraud trial.
Behind closed doors, Manafort defense lawyer Kevin Downing moved unsuccessfully for a mistrial, according to the transcripts, which describe how one of the jurors reported another for allegedly making remarks about the weakness of the defense case before all the testimony had concluded.
Manafort declined to offer any of his own witnesses in his defense, which is his Constitutional right.
The juror’s report prompted a flurry of action among the judge and the lawyers for both sides, conducted over a period of days outside the hearing of the jury or the spectators in the courtroom.
The transcripts indicate that Judge T.S. Ellis III initially took the step of interviewing two of the jurors: the one who complained and the subject of the complaint.
The juror who blew the whistle is a woman who was described by the judge as a scientist.
The judge said she raised concerns about another woman who allegedly said of the defense: “‘They didn’t — they couldn’t have much to present.’ And I reminded her that we have not heard from everyone in this case,” Ellis said, according to the transcript.
He continued, saying “that we need, of course, to keep an open mind. It is our responsibility as a jury to hear everything and then reach our own conclusion.”
The juror who made the complaint said other jurors were talking in the same way too, making “general remarks,” according to the transcript.
“‘And yesterday we had — when we were in — and somebody brought up something political,’” that juror told the judge. “And I said, ‘We’re not doing this,’” the judge said. “And they said, ‘Well, this is not a political case.’ I said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Just stop, because I said so. Because we’re not doing this. It’s not appropriate.’”
The juror who was reported later told the judge she had not declared the defense was weak, and that she was able to keep an open mind and understood that Manafort enjoyed the presumption of innocence.
“‘I just said it would be — I think I said, ‘it would be a tough job’ is all I said … I was just saying it would be tough to be a defense lawyer,” according to the transcript. “That’s all.”
Manafort’s team presses on
Manafort’s lawyers were undeterred. They contended that the case shouldn’t go forward. Eventually, the judge questioned every juror about whether he or she had conducted premature deliberations and whether they had already made up their minds about the case.
The jurors all said no, they had not.
The six man, six woman jury ultimately convicted Manafort on eight charges and was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on 10 more counts Tuesday.
The defense team has suggested it may appeal or ask for a new trial, although lawyer Kevin Downing told reporters after the verdict that Judge Ellis had ensured Manafort received a fair trial.
Mark MacDougall, a longtime criminal defense lawyer in Washington, said the judge in the Manafort case “followed the rule book” when he questioned the jury.
“Once he had satisfied himself that the panel had not been tainted, it was appropriate for him to continue with that jury,” MacDougall told NPR. “This is not unusual in lengthy trials and – given the facts in this case – not a strong issue on appeal.”