As former Gov. Edwin Edwards celebrated a 6th Congressional District runoff spot Tuesday, his past was in evidence all over the party.
Old pols, like former Secretary of State Jim Brown, and old supporters, like Andrew Martin, mingled the crowd with an old juror from the federal trial that sent him to prison on racketeering charges.
“I have been helping him on my own during the campaign. I got an invitation and I wanted to be there,” said Victor Durand, known as Juror 68, who was dismissed during deliberations.
“I am super excited that he is in the runoff,” the East Baton Rouge parish resident said in a brief Wednesday interview.
Durand’s identity, like that of other jurors, was protected during court proceedings. Jurors were referred to by numbers instead.
Durand — as Juror 68 — figured prominently in Edwards’ lawyers unsuccessful appeal of the riverboat casino corruption conviction, because he was removed during deliberations.
U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola found that Juror 68 had violated his oath as a juror by ignoring court instructions when he took a dictionary into the deliberation room and walked out with notes.
Defense lawyers contended that Durand, who was 40 at the time, was a holdout, and deemed him favorable to their cause in the 2000 trial.
Edwards went to prison in October 2002 after appeals were exhausted. He was released from prison in July 2011 and received early release from post-prison supervision in February 2013.
Durand said he did not keep in touch with Edwards in prison. But he’s had occasion to see the ex-governor since his release, including introducing himself to Edwards as Juror 68 at a book signing event.
After seeing the 87-year-old Edwards worked the party crowd, Durand observed: “He looked like he had a new life. He was definitely in his element.”
Two retired State Police troopers, who were part of his gubernatorial security detail, watched as Edwards spent more than two hours mixing and mingling with party attendees. He occasionally eyed a big-screen TV checking on vote totals.
Edwards did not respond Wednesday to requests for an interview about Juror 68 made through his congressional campaign office.
But at the election party, as on the campaign trail, Edwards didn’t shy away from the conviction.
“I don’t have any skeletons in my closet. They are all out in the open,” said Edwards, the state’s only four-time governor and a former congressman.
Edwards said he’s got the advantage in the Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Garret Graves, who headed coastal restoration efforts for Gov. Bobby Jindal. He points to his political know-how and ability to get things done.
And whether planned, or not, the guitarist at “victory party” led off with “Folsom Prison Blues.”
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