By Carol D. Leonnig and Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 28, 2007; 12:32 PM
Jurors deliberating in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby asked for the judge's advice about how to interpret one of five counts in the case. The count charges that the vice president's former chief of staff lied to the FBI about his conversation with former Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, according to a note from the jury released by the court this morning.
But even before the judge was able to advise them, the jurors said they had resolved the matter themselves.
The jurors appeared confused about whether the charge involved Libby making specific false statements to the FBI about his conversation with Cooper, or whether the general "content" of how he described the conversation was false.
"Is the charge that the statement was made or is it about the content of the statement itself?" the jurors wrote.
Shortly after 10 a.m. today, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton told lawyers for both sides that he was not certain that he understood what the jury was asking. The lead defense attorney, Theodore Wells Jr., told the judge that the parties understood it.
Walton asked the jury this morning for clarification about the point of their question, which was sent to him late Tuesday afternoon. But the 11 jurors then sent back a note saying they now understood how to proceed and didn't need help after all.
"No further clarification needed. Thank you. We apologize," they wrote.
Lawyers not involved in the case said the question may suggest the jury -- now in its sixth day of deliberations -- is making progress toward reaching a verdict and may be working toward a compromise. But it also could be viewed as indicating they are simply confused about whether they must be precise in determining what the false statements were.
Libby, 56, is charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury investigating the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity in 2003 and trying to obstruct the probe. He is accused of lying about how he learned about Plame's identity and about sharing that information with reporters.
Plame is the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was sent by the CIA in 2002 to determine whether Iraq was seeking nuclear materials in the African nation of Niger. He found the claims groundless, but later accused the Bush administration of twisting his conclusions in order to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Prosecutors say that Plame's name was leaked to reporters in an attempt to discredit Wilson, by insinuating that he was sent on the mission because of nepotism.