One juror in the trial of Paul Manafort may have started weighing evidence too soon, prompting a call for a mistrial. Another said Donald Trump‘s former campaign chairman could have been convicted on all 18 counts he faced, were it not for a sole hold-out.

Neither happened. But, behind the scenes, both possibilities were at play according to court documents and a juror‘s statements after Manafort‘s eight-count conviction last week in Alexandria, Virginia.

The federal court jury battled intense pressure, shouting matches, tears and potentially outcome-changing mis-steps to reach its verdict, all of it underscoring a courtroom truism: a carefully choreographed trial can turn on the actions of a single juror.

The drama could be replayed soon. A second trial for Manafort is scheduled to begin next month, across the Potomac River in Washington. The backstage turmoil from the first trial highlights some of the challenges US district judge Amy Berman Jackson may need to navigate in another politically charged case against a former key aide to the president‘s campaign.

The new panel must evaluate evidence prosecutors say supports a seven-count indictment accusing the former political strategist of conspiring to launder money, failing to register as a lobbyist for the pro-Russian government of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and obstructing justice. The most serious of those counts – money laundering and obstruction – carry top sentences of 20 years in prison.

Prospective jurors won‘t be excused from serving for having seen reports of the Alexandria case, unless they have formed unshakable opinions.

It‘s possible the defence may seek to postpone the second trial or have it moved to another location because of the heavy media coverage of the first case in the Washington area, said former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi.

“That verdict was a devastating blow to the objectivity of the jury pool,” he noted.

In Alexandria, judge TS Ellis didn‘t inquire too deeply about potential jurors‘ political beliefs, instead asking whether they can put aside their politics to fairly and impartially judge the evidence. Jackson is likely to do that too.

And while there‘s no uniform way of picking a jury in the federal court system, Jackson – like Ellis – will likely start that process with a questionnaire that seeks the basics: name, gender, age, address, marital and employment status, educational attainment and military service.

In Alexandria, Ellis managed to contain a conflict between jurors when one of them told a court security officer that another had been overheard apparently prejudging the case as all-but-won by the prosecution, according to court records. The judge rejected a defence motion for a mistrial then, and again days later after the panel indicated it didn‘t want its communiques with the judge read aloud in open court.

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Despite the intrigue, the jury of six men and six women managed to agree on eight of 18 counts. They split 11-1 on the other charges, one juror said in television interviews.

Manafort is not finished in Virginia. Prosecutors have until this Wednesday to tell Ellis whether they will seek to retry him on those charges. Word that 11 jurors were inclined to convict may embolden them to do so.

One juror who voted to convict Manafort and who is also a supporter of Donald Trump went on television offering advice for Trump if he were to consider whether to pardon his former campaign chairman: don‘t do it.

Paula Duncan is so far the only juror to speak out since Manafort was found guilty.

“He should absolutely not pardon him. I think it would be a big mistake,” Duncan (54) said, adding that she believed it would be a mistake from both a moral and a political perspective. “If President Trump pardons him without him doing any time at all it would look like President Trump was saying it‘s OK that you broke the law. It‘s not OK to break the law.”

Trump weighed in on Manafort‘s plight while the jury was still in deliberations, calling the tax and bank fraud case against him “very sad” and lauding him as a “very good person”.

Those comments, along with tweets following the verdict, have heightened speculation Trump may look to pardon Manafort. When asked directly about the prospect, Trump has not ruled it out.

Duncan said she and 10 other jurors wanted to convict Manafort on all 18 counts of tax and bank fraud and failing to declare his foreign bank accounts. It was one hold-out who caused the jury to hang on 10 of the 18 counts after nearly four days, she said.

© Reuters

Reuters