Jurors Break For Day Without Reaching Verdict In Phipps Trial
Posted October 29, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C. — Jurors ended their deliberations Wednesday in the Meg Scott Phipps trial without reaching a verdict. They plan to resume deliberating Thursday morning.
The former state agriculture commissioner faces three counts of perjury and two counts of obstruction of justice in connection with a campaign finance scandal.
Jurors have heard testimony from prosecution witnesses for more than a week. Prosecutors allege Phipps knew about her staff's involvement in an effort to repay a campaign debt by former aide Bobby McLamb and lied about that involvement and other issues in a 2002 State Board of Elections meeting.
"If we don't know where candidates get their money and how they spend it, then that takes us back to the smoke-filled rooms where a few people make the decisions and the rest of us don't count," said Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby during closing arguments.
Willoughy compared the scandal to that of Watergate.
"The person at the very top knew about [it] and made a decision to cover it up and got the underlings to cover up and do the things to try to prevent it from coming out," he said.
Defense attorneys decided to not present any witnesses or evidence. They allege Phipps unknowingly became involved in others' mistakes. Wade Smith, Phipps' attorney, delivered his closing arguments after the prosecution.
Smith said the district attorney's case was built on the testimony of "deceitful people unworthy of belief."
"People said one thing at one time and said something different at another time," he said.
If convicted, Phipps faces either probation or up to four years in prison. Next month, Phipps is scheduled to stand trial on federal charges.