The panel of seven women and five men began deliberating in the fraud trial of former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers at about 11:15 this morning, after an hour of instruction from US District Judge Barbara Jones.
In her comments to jurors, Judge Jones advised that circumstantial evidence would be a pivotal factor in the case. "Circumstantial evidence, if believed, is of no less evidence than direct evidence," she said.
It figures. Given that there has been no smoking gun in this trial, the prosecution has been painting an overall picture of Bernie Ebbers as a desperate, controlling man -- and the defense has countered that attack with an equally vivid portrayal of Ebbers as a homespun businessman, coach, and all-around nice guy.
Referring to the witnesses for the prosecution -- former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan and former WorldCom controller David Myers -- Judge Jones said: "You may consider whether the accomplice witness, like any other witness, has an interest in the outcome of this case."
Ebbers, wearing a brown jacket and blue shirt, showed no reaction during the judge's jury instructions.
"You're not partisan. You're judges -- judges of the fact," Jones, wearing a black robe, told jurors. And, at that, the jurors, dressed variously, filed out, ready to ponder six weeks of testimony and evidence.
Our coverage will resume when the jury returns a verdict.
Meanwhile, here's a summary of our trial coverage thus far:
- Ebbers Trial: Sex, Drugs & Numbers
Ebbers: Bumpkin or Bully?
Ebbers Day II: 'Look After Pennies'
Ebbers: Of Motels & Men