John Edwards' Judge Quip Draws Laughter

PHOTO: John Edwards with parents Bobbie and Wallace
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John Edwards' lawyer dropped his head to his courtroom table in apparent exasperation as jurors concluded a seventh day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the former presidential candidate's mistress-and-money trial.

Judge Catherine Eagles inadvertently caused a small stir this afternoon when she entered the courtroom and announced, "The jury has sent a note that they've reached..."

After a long pause as lawyers and observers held their breath, she continued: "a good stopping point."

As the courtroom erupted in laughter, Edward's attorney, veteran lawyer Abbe Lowell chuckled and put his head on the defense table.

Eagles later apologized for the confusion, apparently making the joke inadvertently.

The brief moment of levity contrasted with a much darker mood earlier today when Eagles appeared to scold jurors, slightly delaying their ongoing deliberations.

Following the long weekend jurors returned today for a closed-door meeting with the judge. It is unclear what jurors did that Judge Catherine Eagles felt compelled to hold a closed door session with them, the second such hearing since Friday.

When the court reconvened, Eagles gave a longer than normal speech to the jurors, reminding them to carefully choose their words, and not to discuss the trial in small groups or outside the jury room.

It raises the possibility that juror behavior could later be grounds for an appeal.

Jurors have deliberated the case for seven days, methodically working through six campaign-finance charges.

Edwards, a two-time presidential candidate and former senator, is accused of using nearly $1 million in donations from wealthy political backers to hide his mistress and love child during his 2008 campaign.

The month-long trial concluded on May 18. A panel of eight men and four women have been deliberating ever since, breaking each day only for lunch.

If convicted Edwards face up to 30 years in prison and be fined as much as $1.5 million, although it is unlikely he would face the severest penalties.

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