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Ebbers Trial: The Jury Is Out

The jury's out.

The panel of seven women and five men began deliberating in the fraud trial of former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers at about 11:15 this morning, after an hour of instruction from US District Judge Barbara Jones.

In her comments to jurors, Judge Jones advised that circumstantial evidence would be a pivotal factor in the case. "Circumstantial evidence, if believed, is of no less evidence than direct evidence," she said.

It figures. Given that there has been no smoking gun in this trial, the prosecution has been painting an overall picture of Bernie Ebbers as a desperate, controlling man -- and the defense has countered that attack with an equally vivid portrayal of Ebbers as a homespun businessman, coach, and all-around nice guy.

Referring to the witnesses for the prosecution -- former WorldCom CFO Scott Sullivan and former WorldCom controller David Myers -- Judge Jones said: "You may consider whether the accomplice witness, like any other witness, has an interest in the outcome of this case."

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