Jurors in the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, asked the presiding judge on Friday for a definition of “reasonable doubt.” The jurors were let out of deliberations early, and will not resume discussions until Monday, when it is expected that the judge will reply to their note.
The note read: “We would like clarification of the term ‘reasonable doubt.’ Specifically, is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?”
This does provide a clue into the minds of the seven women and four men who hold the fate of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, at least according to some court observers. Whether some jurors are trying to define “reasonable doubt,” which has never been given a rock-solid definition, or others are attempting to decide if a false statement should be said to be because of faulty memory or intentional deception, which is the heart of the case.
Edward B. MacMahan Jr., a Virginia attorney, says “if a juror has absolutely no doubt the defendant is guilty, that’s not the kind of question they ask. But that doesn’t mean the jury will acquit him.”
E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., a Washington defense attorney, had a different take on the question. “As a general rule, a prosecutor doesn’t want to hear a jury asking about reasonable doubt after a week of deliberations.”
In their closing statement, Mr. Libby’s lawyers emphasized the idea that any misstatements made by Libby were the result of a faulty memory, and not because an intent to deceive. They also pointed out that each of the prosecution’s witnesses against Libby showed signs of faulty memory. For instance:
Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary, denied he was a source of the Plame leak for Walter Pincus, but Pincus disagrees. Fleischer is also positive that he told reporter John Dickerson about Joe Wilson’s wife, and was so sure of this he asked for immunity from prosecuters. But Dickerson, on the other hand, is equally as positive that Fleischer told him nothing.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller actually forgot about her June 23rd meeting with Libby until she later looked through her notebooks. She also admitted to hearing about Plame from other sources, but was unable to identify any by name.
Such is memory.