WASHINGTON -- After a month of testimony and a day of impassioned debate by the lawyers, a federal jury began considering the perjury case yesterday against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton instructed the eight-woman, four-man panel on the law underlying the five-count indictment against Libby, and sent them off to begin deliberations. Walton urged the panel to use its "common-sense experience" in determining whether Libby was guilty of an illegal cover-up or of merely having a bad memory.
The jury adjourned yesterday afternoon without reaching a verdict and will resume deliberations this morning.
Libby is charged with obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements to investigators. The government alleges that his actions impeded a three-year federal probe into the outing of a CIA operative who was married to a critic of the Bush administration.
The trial, which included the testimony of several prominent journalists and past and present government officials, has offered an unusual inside look into how the administration attempted to discredit an adversary.
Prosecutors have alleged that a campaign to discredit former envoy Joseph C. Wilson IV boiled over, and that Wilson's wife, CIA arms-proliferation analyst Valerie Plame, was exposed in the crossfire. Libby tried to conceal his involvement because he feared he had disclosed classified information, the government alleges.
The defense portrayed Libby as an overworked civil servant operating at the highest levels of government whose memory was fogged because of the pressing affairs of state. Libby, once Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser, did not testify, and his lawyers put on a limited defense that focused mainly on attacking the credibility of government witnesses - a number of whom had memory problems of their own.