The jury in Josh Duggar's trial on child pornography charges is now four-and-a-half hours into their deliberations on his guilt or innocence, after listening to closing arguments Wednesday morning in federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
No one, save for those 12 people — eight men and four women — may ever know what fully went on in the jury room. But the court got a peek into their thought process about halfway through the afternoon when some jurors sent word back to the judge that they had a question.
After both prosecutors and the defense team had re-assembled, Judge Timothy Brooks read the brief note aloud:
The message, signed by two of the jurors, said they wanted to re-listen to the audio from the former 19 Kids and Counting star's interview with law enforcement on Nov. 8, 2019, as Homeland Security agents were searching his car lot and seizing his electronic devices.
That 25-minute audio — which encompasses three excerpts from Duggar's roughly hour-long interview — was heard last week during the prosecution's case. It shows Duggar listing off which of his devices were at the car lot at the time of the search, including the HP desktop in the office that was later found to be used to access child pornography.
The interview recordings also show Duggar, 33, detailing how he uses his devices, discussing how he set up the work router and recently reconfigured it for security and saying he is familiar with the kinds of file-sharing networks used in this case. Unprompted, he also references the popular Tor internet browser, another program used to access the sexual abuse material. Tor preserves a user's anonymity and, notoriously, provides access to the so-called "Dark Web."
Confusingly, however, Duggar in the interview audio appears to mix up Tor and torrent, which refers to file-sharing networks.
"I guess I better not say if I don't understand … I don't see any difference," he says after saying a friend recommended Tor.
John Kushmaul A sketch of Josh Duggar at his trial in Fayetteville, Arkansas
And also in the audio, Duggar learns the basis of the search warrant — that his business' IP address was linked to the sharing of child pornography — and asks some questions about it, wondering if "there [is] something going on on my devices." He says he expects the investigators will be able to "narrow it down" as to the source of the illicit content and says that he had not seen any red flags about this kind of behavior from any of his employees or anyone at the car lot.
Audio shows the agents at one point instruct Duggar to listen rather than ask more questions. By the end of the excerpts heard in court, he has grown more cautious. "I've watched my friends answer things and they get 'em," he says.
He says he is wary of incriminating himself in any way: "I'm not saying that I'm guilty or not."
The deliberating jurors on Wednesday afternoon listened to all of that straight-through, with at least one taking rapt notes.
Then they retired to their jury room. (One juror asked the judge if they should tell the two alternates what their purpose was in asking to hear the audio again — alluding to some kind of conversation or debate amongst themselves — but the judge told the juror they were not to deliberate in open court.)
After the audio was played and as the jury exited, one lingering juror asked the judge if she could be given a calendar showing dates from May 2019 to the present. (The sexual abuse material was accessed on Duggar's work computer over three days that May.) But both the defense and prosecutors objected as it was beyond the scope of the evidence and testimony submitted at trial and the judge declined her request.
When the jurors were called back to the courtroom at 5 p.m., they told the judge they wanted to break for the night. They begin again Thursday morning.
John Kushmaul A courtroom sketch of Josh Duggar's attorney Justin Gelfand in federal court in Arkansas
Closing Argument Highlights
Prosecutors and the defense used their closing arguments on Wednesday morning to reiterate and emphasize their main points:
The prosecution says Duggar was a sophisticated "power user" linked by overwhelming circumstantial and time-and-place evidence to his work computer when a separate, password-protected system set up there was used to access child pornography.
The defense says there are too many troubling questions, still, being ignored by law enforcement — and these mysteries suggest Duggar was hacked over a bizarre three-day period in May 2019 in what the key defense expert likened to a "hit and run"-style intrusion.
The arguments were a thematic retread of the six-day trial but accessorized by occasionally animated gestures and visual aids.
"C'mon," Duggar attorney Justin Gelfand said after describing his client as so far from tech-savvy that someone had used his personal laptop to search how to turn off the green light on his MacBook.
In again listing off the defense case supporting "remote access" of the work computer (such as the router's "universal plug and play" vulnerability and the use of streaming) Gelfand said it was not his job to prove such hacking occurred — only to show how it had not been disproven by the prosecution.
He told the jurors: "Each of you has the power to say no if a single reasonable doubt remains in your mind."
Anna Duggar/Instagram From left: Josh and Anna Duggar
Prosecutors, he said, had "painted themselves in a corner. They have committed to you to proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Josh Duggar had to physically be behind the keyboard. ... If that's not true, the prosecution's entire case crumbles like a house of cards. And it's not true."
Gelfand also reflected on the future Duggar faced and how, Gelfand said, he hoped the jury saw things as he did.
"Everything is on the line," Gelfand said. "The stakes don't get any higher."
The government's attorneys twice got to speak, both before and then in rebuttal of the defense.
Carly Marshall stressed all of the contextual evidence connecting Duggar both to the work machine's hidden system (using his favored password) and to the days and times the child pornography was downloaded or viewed.
"Is this really a whodunit?" she asked. "His car lot. His office. His computer. His family on a desktop background. His password. Evidence in this case points to Josh Duggar."
Briefly noting how the trial had boiled down to densely technical testimony by dueling experts, Marshall acknowledged to jurors: "'Y'all heard a lot of information in this trial over the past week."
Even so, she said: "Follow the trail. Where does it go?"
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Dustin Roberts then addressed the jury. Sounding beyond incredulous, he said Gelfand was "trying to divorce you [the jury] from your common sense."
Gelfand was "obscuring the truth in favor of a fantasy," Roberts said, "then blamed the government for not disproving the boogeyman."
Roberts went on: "This is not a complicated case: It's about a man who owns a car lot."