Jury Asks Judge to Redefine ‘Reasonable Doubt’ in Manafort Trial

A federal court jury failed to reach a verdict during the first day of deliberations in the financial fraud trial of Paul Manafort, and the panel recessed after submitting four questions to the judge overseeing the case.

Among the queries, jurors asked U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to redefine the term “reasonable doubt.”

Jurors must find guilt beyond reasonable doubt in order to convict the former Trump campaign chairman of the 18 counts of tax and bank fraud lodged against him.

Ellis returned the panel to the courtroom late Thursday where he explained that the government was not required to prove the case beyond “all doubt.” He defined reasonable doubt as doubt “based on reason.”

Defense attorneys appealed to jurors in final arguments Wednesday to give careful consideration to the standard before rendering their decision.

Jurors also asked the judge to clarify requirements for U.S. citizens to report financial interests in foreign bank accounts. Manafort is charged with four counts of failing to file reports of interests in off-shore accounts where prosecutors allege he shielded more than $15 million from U.S. tax authorities.

A third question requested a definition of shell companies, believed to be a reference to entities that Manafort allegedly created to accept payment and move money earned from his political consulting operation in Ukraine.

Ellis instructed the jury to rely on their understanding the term from the evidence presented.

The judge denied a fourth request that the panel be provided an amended exhibit list that corresponded directly with the 18 criminal counts filed in the case.

Jurors notified the judge of their questions more than six hours into their deliberations, prompting prosecutors and defense attorneys to rush back to the courthouse. In the courtroom, defense attorneys were joined by Manafort.

While it was unclear how the questions related to the jury’s deliberations, Manafort lead attorney Kevin Downing described the developments as a “good day.” He characterized the jury’s query about reasonable doubt as a “good sign.”

The panel of six men and six women began deliberating Thursday morning after two weeks of often-bruising testimony and blistering final arguments from prosecutors who described their case against the former Trump campaign chairman as “overwhelming.”

“It is now time for you to deliberate,” Ellis told the panel before they were excused shortly before 10 a.m., adding that the length of their discussions was totally up to them.

Click here to read more.
Source: USA Today