Jurors in Stewart trial surprised defense was not more aggressive

Associated Press

NEW YORK - Jurors who convicted Martha Stewart of lying about a stock sale said they believed the key prosecution witnesses who testified against the homemaking guru and were surprised that her team didn't build a more aggressive defense.

They also said Stewart's reputation as a stickler for detail belied her claim that she did not remember receiving a message from her broker warning her that the price of a stock she held was about to fall.

"That wasn't really believable because this is a woman who pays attention to details," juror Rosemary McMahon told Dateline NBC in an interview with six jurors. A jury of eight women and four men deliberated 12 hours over three days before returning guilty verdicts Friday on all four counts against Stewart - conspiracy, obstruction and two counts of making false statements.

All the charges relate to an accusation that Stewart lied to cover up the reason she sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems stock on Dec. 27, 2001 - avoiding a hefty loss when the company announced bad news the next day.

In April, prosecutors offered Stewart a chance to plead guilty to one of the four charges against her - making a false statement - in exchange for a probation sentence, Newsweek reported yesterday, quoting several unidentified sources close to the case. But a defense source told the magazine that prosecutors could not guarantee that Stewart would avoid jail time and Stewart refused the offer, Newsweek reported.

Jurors said that although they spent days exhaustively going over the evidence, they always came to the same conclusion.

"We tried five ways on Friday to take it from different angles," juror Meg Crane said. "To work it through. And - and that was it. We were ... we just could not have done anything else."

Jurors said they were surprised that the defense spent less than an hour presenting its side, after the prosecution took four weeks to make its case.

"We thought there was going to be more from the defense," said juror Jonathan Laskin, 48, a paralegal and translator. "We ... were hoping they would put up more of a fight or something. Or give us more to chew on. But it wasn't there."

Jurors said the most compelling testimony came from Stewart's assistant, Ann Armstrong, who testified that Stewart sat down at Armstrong's desk to change a message from her broker, Peter Bacanovic, that informed her that he thought the ImClone stock price would start falling. "She ultimately gave the testimony that was going to bring Martha down," said juror Chappell Hartridge.

Despite efforts by the defense to discredit the prosecution's star witness, Douglas Faneuil, jurors said they believed the testimony of the former Merrill Lynch assistant.

"We all agreed that he was very rehearsed, and we did take a long look at that," juror Laskin said. But, he said, "we ultimately felt that it [his testimony] was essentially credible."

Many jurors said they were stunned by longtime Stewart friend Mariana Pasternak's testimony that Stewart had told her she knew that ImClone CEO Sam Waksal was selling his stock. Pasternak testified she remembered Stewart saying, "Isn't it nice to have brokers who tell you those things?" although she backed off that claim on cross-examination.

"We were like, 'Wow,' " juror Dana D'Allessandro said. "That blew me away."

Hartridge said, "It took down two people with one shot."

Bacanovic was convicted of obstruction, making false statements, conspiracy and perjury.

Jurors also said they weren't impressed by the courtroom visits of some of Stewart's celebrity friends, including Rosie O'Donnell and Bill Cosby.

"I felt, 'Are we being manipulated here in some way?' " Laskin said.

Both Stewart and Bacanovic have vowed to appeal.

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