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Lawyers in DiMasi case pore over draft of judge’s instructions to jury

Attorneys for the defense and prosecution in the corruption trial of former House speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and two associates today pored over a 19-page draft of the judge’s instructions to the jury.

US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf indicated on Wednesday that he plans to spend today listening to lawyers on both sides debate the issue. The judge said lawyers could present their closing arguments Friday or Monday, more than a month after the May 6 opening statements. The jury would begin deliberating after Wolf finishes his instructions.

Wolf said today that he would not finalize the juror instructions until after closing arguments.

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“I’m going to instruct the jury that they have to consider each defendant, and they can choose to convict one of them, two of them, none of them, or all three.’’

As in all jury trials, the instructions to jurors have set off wrangling among the attorneys, the Globe reports today.

Defense lawyers want Wolf to tell jurors that in order to convict DiMasi, they must find that he hatched a kickback scheme and directed payments to be made to associates in exchange for his help — a threshold that they say prosecutors have failed to prove.

Prosecutors, however, say they need to prove only that DiMasi was a willing and knowing participant in what they allege was a conspiracy to help a Burlington software company win state contracts in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks.

Assistant US Attorney S. Theodore Merritt acknowledged in court today that he is seeking to get everything in jury instructions. “All I can say is [there are] skilled defense attorneys who fight everything, tooth and nail,’’ he said.

Responded Wolf: “Well, I think we’ve seen that from prosecutors over the last 6 months, too.’’

DiMasi, his financial adviser Richard Vitale, and lobbyist Richard McDonough, both longtime friends of the former speaker, are charged with using the speaker’s office to help the Burlington-based Cognos Corp. win two state contracts totaling $17.5 million.

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