After deliberating for nine days, the jurors in John Edwards' campaign finance trial have acquitted him of one charge while deadlocking on five others. The judge declared a mistrial on the latter counts.
The jury found the former North Carolina senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee not guilty of receiving several hundred thousand dollars in illegal campaign contributions from a wealthy donor. Edwards used the money to hide his extramarital affair and the baby that resulted from it. Federal prosecutors argued that the money qualified as campaign contributions because concealing the affair was important to Edwards' campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. He argued that covering his mistress's living expenses was a personal expenditure aimed at deceiving his wife, who was dying from cancer at the time. Evidently the jury favored the latter interpretation; if so, it is hard to see why it deadlocked on the other counts, since the government's whole case hinged on its novel reading of campaign finance law, which made a felony out of Edwards' efforts to impersonate a decent human being. The Justice Department, whose legal theory has been rejected not only by former chairmen of the Federal Election Commission but also (apparently) by the agency's current staff, should give up now, but it probably won't.