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Edwards' Brother Cleared on 41 Counts

December 17, 1985|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | Times Staff Writer

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards' brother, Marion, was acquitted Monday of 41 of the 50 counts against him, but the jury said it was deadlocked on reaching a verdict on any count in the cases of four other defendants, including the governor.

The jury later resumed deliberations on the instruction of U.S. Judge Marcel Livaudais. They were in the jury room for about 90 minutes before quitting for the day.

The nine remaining charges against Marion Edwards are the most serious, including conspiracy and racketeering. All five defendants are charged with illegally using their influence to obtain state hospital and nursing home certificates, which in turn were sold for $10 million to major corporations. Marion Edwards is accused of receiving $1 million and the governor is charged with pocketing $1.9 million.

Surprise Verdict

The surprise partial verdict came at mid-afternoon Monday, after the six-man, six-woman jury wrote Livaudais a note, telling him that "after days of deliberation, we are now at a point of deadlock with no foreseeable progress."

The judge, in his reply, asked the jury if it had reached a verdict on any counts against any of the defendants. After hearing the partial verdict on Marion Edwards, Livaudais instructed the jury to return to work.

"This is an important case," he said. "The trial has been expensive in time, effort and money to both the defense and prosecution."

Edwin Edwards, one of the most flamboyant figures in a state noted for its colorful politicians, sat impassively in his chair as the partial verdict on his brother was read. There was no sign of the joviality that was his trademark before the trial began.

'Very Well Pleased'

On the courthouse steps, Marion Edwards said he was "very well pleased with what we have just heard."

But the governor would only say, "We'll be back," in response to reporters' questions.

Both the prosecution and defense said the Monday verdict was a positive sign for their sides.

"It's good news for all the defendants," said Camille Gravel, one of the governor's lawyers.

John Volz, the U.S. attorney who headed the prosecution team, said he believed the verdict indicated the jury was taking its job seriously.

Thorough Consideration

"One theory is that this jury is very thoroughly considering this whole case," he said.

Monday was the sixth day of deliberations, but the jury took Sunday off to attend church, watch the New Orleans Saints' game and visit relatives.

Livaudais ruled earlier Monday that one of the jurors, Clifford West, would not be dismissed for what the defense team described as "bizarre gestures." Among other things, West gave a thumbs-down signal as television cameramen filmed him being driven from his hotel to the courthouse on Saturday.

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