Nearly two hours into the fourth day of deliberations, jurors in the Paul Manafort trial emerged with a question suggesting they were close to handing down a verdict on the tax and bank fraud charges the special counsel brought against the former Trump campaign chairman.
“Your honor, if we cannot come to a consensus on a single count, how should we fill in the jury verdict form for that count, and what does that mean for the final verdict? We will need another form, please,” the note stated. The note, which was read aloud in court by Judge T.S. Ellis III, was signed by the jury’s unidentified foreperson.
Ellis urged the jurors to continue their deliberations and strive for consensus on the 18 charges Manafort is facing. Before the jurors took their seats in the courtroom, Ellis told the prosecution and defense lawyers that he might soon accept a partial verdict if the jurors struggle to reach a unanimous decision on one or more counts.
“I’m not going to ask for a partial verdict at this time,” Ellis told the lawyers, before jurors entered the room. “It’s not appropriate.”
He said he would also ask jurors where they stood on most of the counts, though he did not specifically indicate when.
“This note would suggest that I know the answer, but am not sure,” Ellis said.
The note arrived with a knock at the courtroom door at around 11:20 a.m. “We have a question from the jury,” Ellis told lawyers, before allowing jurors in.
He allowed lawyers a five-minute recess to look at the jury’s note. Prosecutors left the room while Manafort’s attorneys huddled around the former Trump campaign chairman.
Manafort’s lead defense attorney, Kevin Downing, picked up on the jurors’ request for a new verdict form, and suggested the form include a third option for the jurors on each count: “hung.”
“The third option should be ‘hung’ as to each count,” Downing said, adding that jurors should not be misled to believe that “hung on each count would not be appropriate.”
The lead prosecutor, Greg Andres, objected to that suggestion.
Ellis said he understood Downing’s point, but sided with Andres. After the recess, the judge did not provide the jurors a new form, nor did he directly address that request.
Ellis told lawyers that he needed to be careful not to give any instructions that would unduly influence the jury—or “cross that line,” as he put it.
“The main reason … or the main principle that I need to adhere to,” he said, “is not to say or do anything that is coercive.”
Ellis also made an appeal for reporters to not rush out of the room. Ellis said he appreciated the media’s desire to report on developments in the trial as quickly as possible but wants to avoid disrupting proceedings that play out in front of the jury.
He directed reporters to a spillover room on the sixth floor, three floors down from his courtroom.
“You can rush in and out of that one as much as you please,” he said
Jurors were expected to receive their lunches at 12:15. Ellis told the jurors they could either work through their lunches or take a break.