Jurors in the Martha Stewart criminal trial have reportedly reached a verdict in her criminal obstruction trial in downtown Manhattan. CNBC quoted law enforcement sources policing the area that the jury has reached a verdict and that they should prepare the courthouse for its delivery. Stewart and her Merrill Lynch stockbroker are on trial for obstruction of justice and perjury. Shares of Martha Stewart Living ( MSO) spiked after the report hit, recently trading up $2.72, or 20%, to a 52-week high of $16.75. Earlier, the eight-woman, five-man jury received more guidance in weighing the perjury count against broker Peter Bacanovic, learning that a key witness' recollection of a telephone conversation should be considered separately from a computer log recording the same call. Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum's instructions are another blow to Bacanovic, who is charged along with Stewart with making false statements about her sale of about 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems ( IMCL) in December 2001. The two face maximum five-year sentences on each count they face. At the center of the government's case are FBI interviews conducted with Bacanovic and Stewart in the weeks following her fortuitously timed stock sale of Dec. 27, 2001. The eight-woman, four-man jury appeared to be focusing on contradictory testimony given by Bacanovic and Stewart's personal assistant, Ann Armstrong, about a conversation they had that afternoon. In her instructions Friday, Cedarbaum advised jurors that Armstrong's testimony about the phone call is legally distinct from a phone log recording the same discussion -- meaning their weight can be added together in considering Bacanovic's guilt or innocence. The advice followed a note sent by the jury Thursday in which they asked if Armstrong's testimony and the phone log were sufficient grounds for perjury. "Miss Armstrong did not rely on the phone log in the recollection of her conversation," Cedarbaum told the jury. "The phone log would have been independently admissible as a business record." Bacanovic and Stewart have held that the domestic entrepreneur made the ImClone trade under an informal stop-loss agreement that kicked in when the stock fell to $60. Prosecutors, who believe that story is a lie, have zeroed in on differing accounts of what Bacanovic told Armstrong when he called her after learning of frantic efforts to sell ImClone shares by family members of its founder, Sam Waksal.
According to a tape of an FBI interview played to jurors on Feb. 11, Bacanovic said he called Stewart after learning of the Waksal family selling, simply "to apprise her of the price." Unable to reach Stewart, who was en route to Mexico, Bacanovic and assistant Douglas Faneuil left a message with Armstrong in which "we just gave her the price of the stock." A lawyer asked Bacanovic if he "specifically told Annie that ImClone stock was dropping," to which Bacanovic replied: "No." That appeared to contradict testimony given earlier in the trial by Armstrong herself, in which she testified recalling a message that "Peter Bacanovic thinks ImClone is going to start trading downward." A phone log that also contained that message was later erased and then re-recorded by Stewart. In responding to the jurors' note Thursday, Cedarbaum said the phone log helped to corraborate a perjury charge if it could "show that what was said was untrue." She gave Bacanovic's lawyer a chance to argue her out of the instructions Friday morning before addressing the jury, which is continuing its third day of deliberations.