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One holdout juror spared Paul Manafort from a full conviction

“We all tried to convince her,” a Trump-supporting juror told Fox News.

Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort Returns To Court For Arraignment
Paul Manafort
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

In the end, it was one juror who saved Paul Manafort from being convicted on all 18 counts he faced, instead of just the eight counts related to his finances that he ended up with.

Paula Duncan, a jury member and self-described Trump supporter, told Fox News Wednesday night that it was just one juror who held out on 10 of the counts.

Duncan voted guilty on all 18 counts, saying that she considered the evidence against Manafort “overwhelming.” Duncan isn’t just a Republican who voted for her party’s nominee — she kept her pro-Trump gear in her car while driving to the trial every day and described special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt to try to find Russian collusion.”

Duncan is the first juror of the 12-member panel to speak out publicly. Judge T.S. Ellis III kept the jurors’ names under seal to protect their safety, citing threats he had received during the high-profile trial. But Duncan said she didn’t feel threatened.

“I’m an American. I’m a citizen. I feel I did my civic duty. I don’t think I need to hide behind anything. I am not afraid at all,” she said.

She also said she thought it was the public’s right to know what happened. “America needed to know how close this was,” she explained. “And that the evidence was overwhelming. I did not want Paul Manafort to be guilty, but he was. No one is above the law.”

Duncan was clear that 11 of the 12 jury members believed Manafort was guilty on all 18 counts of subscribing to false income tax returns, failing to report his foreign accounts, and bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy. She didn’t share many details about the holdout juror, other than that she is a woman. The juror refused to budge on 10 of those counts, forcing a mistrial on those charges and a partial conviction on the other eight.

“We all tried to convince her to look at the paper trail,” Duncan said. “We laid it out in front of her again and again, and she still said that she had a reasonable doubt. That’s the way the jury worked. We didn’t want to be hung, so we tried for an extended period of time to convince her.”

“But in the end,” Duncan said, “she held out, and that’s why we have 10 counts they did not get a verdict.”

Duncan described the deliberations as both heated and emotional at times — “there were even tears.” And while Trump’s name came up, the jury tried to keep politics out of it. “I think we all went in there like we were supposed to and assumed that Mr. Manafort was innocent,” Duncan said. “We did due diligence. We apply the evidence, our notes, the witnesses, and we came up with the guilty verdict on the eight counts.”

A juror’s perspective reveals the deep splits about the Mueller investigation

Duncan’s interview with Fox News revealed the inner workings of a jury panel that spent almost four full days deliberating — punctuated by a few notes to the judge and one juror’s desire to get an early start on the weekend.

Duncan expressed serious discomfort with the Mueller investigation and even suggested that Manafort probably wouldn’t have been charged unless the special counsel wasn’t after Trump. “I think they used Manafort to try to get the dirt on Trump — or hoping he would flip on Trump,” she said.

Duncan was critical of the Mueller team, saying she thought the prosecution seemed bored and were catnapping through the trial. She also said they tried to waste time with the “shenanigans” of Russian collusion at the start of the trial, until Judge Ellis intervened. (She also was somewhat critical of the defense, including Manafort’s decision not to testify.)

Yet she and her fellow jurors were persuaded by the evidence — what she called the “paper trail.” Her discomfort with the Russia investigation didn’t prevent her, and possibly others with similar feelings, from examining the facts.

This seems to be both good and bad news for the future of the Mueller investigation — and for President Donald Trump. Trump’s “RIGGED WITCH HUNT”/“Russia hoax”/“NO COLLUSION” campaign is definitely resonating among his supporters. But in Mueller’s first trial, that didn’t prevent at least a partial conviction in a case with strong evidence.