Stewart and her defense felt insulting, juror says

Panel was unimpressed by 1 witness, celebrities

March 06, 2004|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

NEW YORK - Maybe Martha Stewart should have testified in her own defense. Maybe her lawyer should have presented more than one witness. Maybe, as a former stockbroker, Stewart should have known and abided by the rules.

And then maybe Chappell Hartridge would have been able to return to his job still on good terms with a certain colleague.

"Don't come back to work if you convict her," Hartridge quoted a co-worker as joking to him.

Hartridge, 47, was the only member of Stewart's jury who agreed to speak to the news media after yesterday's verdict was announced.

The Bronx resident was among the 12 New Yorkers who convicted Stewart and her co-defendant, former Merrill Lynch stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, of conspiring, making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation of her sale of stock in ImClone Systems, a biotech company.

Hartridge, a computer technician who works as a medical benefits coordinator, didn't expect Stewart to testify, but he was disappointed when she didn't.

"I would have liked to have heard from her," Hartridge said. "But it didn't make a difference."

Still, Hartridge's comments indicate that the defense's strategy didn't work as Stewart and her lawyers would have hoped.

Hartridge said the minimalist defense - not putting Stewart on the stand, presenting only one witness - made it seem as if Stewart and her team thought they'd already won the case.

"It bugged me in a way. ... `I think I fooled the jury,"' Hartridge said, imagining what the defense's thinking might have been.

"I think a little bit more should have been done."

He appeared to have a fairly negative opinion of Stewart, agreeing with a reporter who suggested "arrogant" might be a word to describe her and that she thought "she was above everyone else."

Nor was Hartridge particularly impressed with the occasional fellow celebrity - Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Cosby, Brian Dennehy - who made public shows of support by sitting through some of the proceedings.

"If anything, we may have taken it a little as an insult," he said. "Is that supposed to sway our opinion?"

Speaking about Douglas Faneuil, Bacanovic's assistant who fielded the telephone calls and handled the stock trade with Stewart that day, Hartridge said:

"We didn't use his testimony as gospel, but he was really the foundation."

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