An anonymous juror in the Bell corruption trial sent a note to the judge Thursday morning saying he or she wanted to rethink the guilty verdicts the panel handed down the day before.
honor after you asked us yesterday to go back into the deliberation room, I had
time to think until now," the note began.
The development comes a day after the jury delivered
verdicts of both guilty and not guilty for the so-called Bell 6, former
Council members accused of stealing public money through bloated
salaries. But hours after the verdicts were read, the jurors sent five
notes to the judge, raising questions about the deliberations.
FULL COVERAGE: Bell corruption trial
In Thursday's note, a juror cited the pressure and stress of the deliberation process as his or her reason to rethink the vote on the Solid Waste and Recycling Authority.
[Updated at 10:25 a.m., March 21: "I have been debating in my
own mind that due to the pressure and stress of the deliberation process, the
jury may have given an improper verdict of guilty on the Solid Waste Authority," the juror wrote to Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy. "It is better to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt to give
a verdict of guilty than send someone innocent to prosecution. If possible, I request
to remain anonymous."
The juror requested more information or evidence on Edward Lee, a former city attorney for Bell.
CHEAT SHEET: Bell corruption verdicts
It was not clear if the
note was from a different juror than No. 7, who sent a similar note on
Defense attorney Alex
Kessel asked to find out who the juror was and demanded further inquiry.
"Are we dealing
with multiple jurors who believe there is possible pressure going on?" he
TIMELINE: 'Corruption on steroids'
Judge Kathleen Kennedy
denied the request.
Later, Kessel raised the
issue again and brought up the juror who after less than one week of
deliberations was dismissed for misconduct. Kessel said she too had mentioned
pressure and coercion.
defense attorneys asked if the bailiff could find out and
have the judge seal the identification of that juror. In the end, Kennedy said she would
find out herself.]
On Wednesday, ex-Mayor Oscar Hernandez, and ex-council members George Cole, Victor
Bello, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal were convicted on multiple felony
counts related to money they received for sitting on the Solid Waste and
Recycling Authority. But they were acquitted on charges related to their pay
from the Public Finance Authority.
The sixth defendant, former Councilman Luis Artiga, was
acquitted of all the charges he faced.
When the jury said Wednesday it was undecided on charges related to
the Community Housing and Surplus Property authorities, four jurors told
Kennedy additional information about state laws might help the panel reach a
Kennedy dismissed the group for lunch. When court was back
in session Wednesday, the drama continued when five notes were submitted to the judge.
In a cryptic note, Juror No. 7
told Kennedy he had misgivings about the deliberations, saying he
"questioned myself on information that had me on a [doubt] of thing [sic]
that were not presented properly."
Defense attorney Ron Kaye, who
represents former Councilman George Cole, told the judge the juror's note
suggested he might have been persuaded to vote a certain way. But Kennedy
rejected the lawyer's request to talk to the juror.
“That's done, we're not going to
reopen verdicts that have been reached,” Kennedy said.
In another note, Juror No. 10
said that she believes the jury is "getting away from your
instructions" and possibly misunderstanding a law on "several
levels." Defense attorney Stanley Friedman, who represents Hernandez,
said the comments raised the possibility of jury misconduct.
Legal expert Dimitry Gorin, a
criminal defense attorney, said Wednesday the late developments in the Bell trial and
verdicts are out of the ordinary.
“Questions from the jury as a
collective aren’t unusual, but individual questions are rare and what is
happening here is highly unusual and unique,” Gorin said.
What will happen to the convicted
ex-council members remains unclear.
Legal expert Troy Slaten, a
criminal defense attorney, said the council members are not required to be
jailed. They could instead be put on probation and perform community service.
The jury did not reach a decision
on the special allegations that the defendants took property exceeding $65,000
Hernandez's attorney Friedman said the verdicts so far give the defendants a chance at
probation. If they are convicted of the special allegations, it would be harder
for a judge to give them probation, Friedman said.
"So we are hoping for
probation but we will obviously appeal," Friedman said.
Reaction from Bell: ‘Rizzo is next!’
Bell trial: Jury due back in court to discuss undecided charges
Bell: Appellate court rules city can seek restitution for salaries
— Corina Knoll, Ruben Vives, Richard Winton and Kate Mather