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Libby jury told to consider 'life experiences' on memory

Story Highlights

NEW: Jurors hold first full day of deliberations in I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial
• NEW: Judge tells jurors to consider "life experiences" about "capacity" of memory
• Ex-Dick Cheney aide charged with lying about how CIA operative's name leaked
• If convicted, Libby faces up to 30 years in prison, $1.25 million in fines
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The judge instructed jurors in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to consider their "life experiences" and "the capacity of human beings to remember things they said and were told" at a later time.

The jury of eight women and four men began its first full day of deliberations Thursday to decide whether Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff lied to investigators looking into the exposure of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.

Before deliberations began late Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton read to the jury about 50 pages of instructions.

"In considering Mr. Libby's position and the testimony of any other witness whose memory is at issue, it is appropriate for you to take into account ... your assessment, based on your life experiences, of the capacity of human beings to remember things they said and were told when asked to recall those matters at a later point in time," Walton said.

Jurors must determine whether the government proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt and the verdict on each charge must be unanimous. (Watch how memory will be critical issue in deliberations Video)

Libby did not testify in his trial, and Walton told the jurors that was the defendant's right. (Who are jurors?)

"You must not hold it against him," the judge said. It is "improper to speculate" about why he didn't testify. "You must not draw any inference of guilt."

On Thursday, jurors handed a note to the judge that asked, "May we please get any one of the documents where there are pictures of the witnesses?"

The jury's first request came Wednesday, not long after deliberations began. They asked for a large flip chart, masking tape and Post-it notes.

Charges could bring up to 30-year sentence

Libby, who also was national security adviser to Cheney, faces one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements to the FBI and a grand jury investigating how Plame was outed.

To disclose classified information knowingly to unauthorized recipients is a crime, and Plame's position was classified, but Libby is not accused of exposing her.

If convicted on all five counts, Libby, 56, could be sentenced to 30 years in prison and fined $1.25 million. (Five counts)

Prosecutors contend Libby disclosed Plame's covert profession to reporters as part of a plan to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who alleged that the Bush administration twisted some intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Wilson, who conducted a CIA-sponsored trip to Niger, wrote in a July 2003 New York Times editorial that he found no evidence Iraq sought to buy uranium from the African nation, as the Bush administration claimed.

Prosecutors: Libby lied about CIA operative's disclosure

In closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutors said Libby lied to the FBI and the grand jury about how he heard that Plame was a CIA operative.

Peter Zeidenberg, deputy special counsel, said witnesses proved the government's case.

"It's not a case about scapegoating, it's not a case about conspiracies. It's not a case about bad memories, and it's not a case about forgetting," Zeidenberg said at the start of the prosecution's closing arguments. (Watch how prosecution calls Libby a liar, defense attacks witnesses Video)

Lead defense attorney Ted Wells portrayed Libby as a fall guy caught up in a White House effort to protect presidential political adviser Karl Rove, who turned out to be one of the sources for Robert Novak's July 14, 2003, column that outed Plame.

Novak's other source was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Wells said Libby, who resigned in October 2005, took the fall for leaking Plame's identity to the media.

The defense argued that Libby also forgot about conversations with journalists and other government officials because he was swamped with national defense issues and other priorities.

Wells on Tuesday played an audio recording of Libby saying, "I get a lot of information in the course of the day."

Libby originally said he learned about Plame from NBC's Tim Russert of on July 10, 2003, but the "Meet the Press"host testified that Plame's name did not come up in their phone conversation that day.

High-profile witnesses

Libby "made up a story and he stuck to it," special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in the prosecution's rebuttal of the defense's closing arguments. "Don't you think the American people are entitled to a straight answer?"

Since January 23, former and current government officials and high-profile journalists have testified about conversations they had with Libby that may have touched on the inquiry into who leaked the information that Plame was a CIA operative.

Several reporters -- including Judith Miller, formerly of The New York Times, and then-Time magazine writer Matthew Cooper -- testified that Libby knew about Plame before the call with Russert.

Government officials also recalled Libby mentioning Plame, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who said the name was passed along over lunch on July 7, 2003.

"Let's add it up, nine conversations about Mr. Wilson's wife," Zeidenberg said. "He remembers none of them. The one conversation he says he has, with Tim Russert, is a conversation we now know never happened."

Defense attorneys on Tuesday took aim at Russert's credibility and the depth of the government's case.

"You have to have so much evidence that you are confident they did something," Wells told jurors. "It's to give you a comfort level. There's a permanence to a guilty verdict. There's a saying in my business, 'There are no erasers on the pencils of the jurors.' "

Defense lawyer William Jeffress added, "They want you to find that in making up this story, Mr. Libby chose as his source for this information the world's most famous television newsman.

"Maybe we haven't proven that 'all the reporters knew' [about Valerie Plame], but we've shown there were an awful lot of reporters that knew this information by July 11, 2003."

CNN's Paul Courson contributed to this report.


story.libby.wells.pool.jpg

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, left, leaves federal court last week in Washington with his attorney, Ted Wells.

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