As Oliver North's jury, in a tightly guarded room, debated Friday whether or not he is guilty, an alternate juror who heard all the testimony said she would have voted to convict him on some of the 12 charges.
"Mr. North . . . wasn't made to do what he did," said Horasina McKie, one of five alternates dismissed when the case went to the jury. "He had a choice in it. He had a choice to either say, `No, I don't want to do this' or `Yes sir, I will do this' even as it went along, and he knew it was wrong."North is charged with withholding information from Congress, lying to Attorney General Edwin Meese III about his activities in the Iran-Contra affair, destroying and altering documents, misusing money entrusted to him and accepting an illegal gratuity - a $13,800 security system at his home.
McKie said she had not discussed the case with other jurors - following the strict instructions given daily by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell - and did not know how they feel.
If that held true for the entire jury, the nine women and three men judging North discussed the former National Security Council aide for the first time starting at 9:40 a.m.
They could not help but notice on their arrival that the courthouse, between the Capitol and the White House, had become a news media center. Huge television trucks were parked on the street, wires snaked around the building and cameras were aimed at every entrance.
The jurors quickly had requests, relayed to the judge on notes. They asked for copies of Gesell's instructions, which took more than two hours to read in court; for note pads, paper clips and pencils.
Jury members will deliberate a half day on Saturday but not on Sunday. Their lunches in the courthouse are being catered.
After a night sequestered in a downtown hotel, the jurors were brought to the federal courthouse in a van and taken to an 18-by-12 room only a few feet away from the courtroom where they had listened to testimony for eight weeks. Their room was further crowded with hundreds of exhibits, some still classified as top secret. A U.S. marshal guarded the door..
The foreman is a 34-year-old hospital clerk, Denise Anderson, who said during pretrial questioning that she does not like news and that the extensive television coverage given North's testimony during the 1987 congressional hearings "made me mad. . . . I did not look at it at all."
McKie, the alternate juror who commented in an interview with CBS News, touched on one of North's major defenses, that he was authorized to do all he did.
"No one said, `If you don't do this we're going to fire you,' " McKie said. In his instructions, Gesell had told the jury to remember that no one, including the president, had the right to order an unlawful act.
"I believe Mr. Reagan knew what was going on," McKie said. "I can't say he knew everything, but I think he knew enough to know what was going on. I mean, you see (National Security Adviser Robert) McFarlane every week, he's only 100 yards from you or feet from you."
Reagan told the investigative Tower commission two years ago that he did not know the National Security Council staff was engaged in helping the Contra rebels in Nicaragua when official U.S. aid was banned.