The judge in the John Edwards campaign-finance trial today dismissed a group of four alternate jurors known for wearing color coordinated outfits, fueling speculation that the regular jury might be close to reaching a verdict.
Despite sitting through the entire month-long trial and being ordered to appear every day while the regular panel deliberates, the three women and one man who were alternates have had no input in those deliberations and are not permitted in the jury room.
The alternates last week began wearing matching clothes. They've appeared in court wearing matching yellow, red, black or gray, and purple outfits.
"We will miss your cheerful faces," Federal Judge Catherin Eagles told the alternates. "And we will regret not knowing the color for tomorrow."
Though dismissed, the alternate jurors are still under orders not to discuss the case or give media interviews.
Permitting the alternates to go home has fueled some speculation that the jury may be nearing a verdict. The panel has deliberated for 45 hours over eight days and through several delays.
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 Rielle Hunter and their love child during his 2008 campaign.
If convicted Edwards faces 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.
Deliberations were briefly stalled today when the judge received a mysterious note from a juror, prompting a closed-door session to deal with the jury matter, the third such delay in as many days.
It is unknown what information was contained in the note.
Later in the day, the judge cleared the courtroom a second time to discuss the matter with lawyers for Edwards and the government.
The judge signaled Tuesday that potential scheduling conflicts could cause additional delays. Some jurors have requested time off for personal matters, like attending a child's high school graduation. The judge said she will soon have a meeting in her chambers to address those conflicts.
The regular panel of jurors ended their eighth day of deliberations this evening, adding to anxiety and anticipation surrounding the verdict.
Edwards and his legal team had, until today, waited out every day of deliberations from a second-floor room inside the courthouse. Early on, Edwards could sometimes be seen pacing the room and looking out the window at journalists assembled outside.
Edwards was not at the courthouse this morning, but came back following a lunch break.