I guess those dumb average citizens filled with resentment at the wealthy who can’t understand business don’t automatically become a runaway jury:

OAKLAND, Calif., Nov 27 (Reuters) – Four former executives of JDS Uniphase Corp (JDSU.O: Quote, Profile, Research) did not commit securities fraud or engage in insider trading when they sold more than $350 million in JDSU stock before its price plunged in 2001, a U.S. jury said on Tuesday.

The jury gave its verdict after two days of deliberation in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, where it heard nearly three weeks of testimony from witnesses including the former executives, who took the stand in their own defense.

The verdict was the culmination of nearly five years of litigation aimed at the company and its former officials: Kevin Kalkhoven and Jozef Straus, former chief executives; a former chief financial officer, Anthony Muller; and a former chief operating officer, Charles Abbe.

The suit alleged JDSU, a supplier of components of fiber optic telecom networks, and its executives cost shareholders $18 billion by painting a rosy financial picture of a company whose stock was set to plunge.

Those who lost out include 160,000 firefighters, teachers, and other public employees invested in the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, which lost about $65 million, more than any other shareholder.

In 2002, the funds sued on behalf of all those who owned stock between April 2000 and July 2001. They claimed that executives must have known in 2000 that their customers were reducing next year’s orders by more than $1 billion.

But instead of informing the public, they touted their company in conference calls, securities filings and news releases while dumping hundreds of millions of dollars in company stock near its high, plaintiffs said.

The four defendants sold $359 million in stock between July 31 and August 31, 2000, and other insiders sold another $503 million worth, Hart said.

Defense attorneys countered the executives sold a smaller percentage of their shares in August 2000 than they had in the past and collectively retained 72 percent of their former interests in the company.

Jurors found there was not enough evidence showing either that the executives behaved uniquely in the trading period or that they knew the industry would implode.

"That was the main thing — the lack of the ability to forecast what would happen in 2001," juror Ann Nelson said.

It can’t be stressed enough: you can’t stereotype a jury or a case. Here a handful of wealthy, well-connected executives in a risk industry made a ton of money right before thousands of frugal middle-class workers lost a ton of retirement money. Seems straightforward: of course the jury will make the defendants pay millions.

Apparently not, and apparently the jury carefully scrutinized the complicated evidence. The same thing happened with Scooter Libby: the jury convicted on the strong counts and not the weak ones.

Frankly, I find the JDS Uniphase verdict deeply comforting. A trial is an inherently confusing thing for a jury — akin to watching a movie by viewing all of the footage shot of one actor (including outtakes), then all of the footage shot of another actor, and so on — and in many of my complicated cases I worry about how anyone will understand in a few days of spoken word what has taken me months and hundreds of pages of notes to piece together. JDS Uniphase shows it can be done.