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Bell jury has been out nearly as long as corruption trial itself

March 18, 2013 |  7:14 pm

 Former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez is one of six former council members tried for corruption. The jury has now been out nearly as long as the trial lasted.
The amount of time jurors in the Bell corruption case have spent behind closed doors is approaching the length of the criminal trial for the six former council members accused in the case.

Tuesday marks the 17th day of juror deliberations, and there has been no indication that a verdict is near.

The panel of seven women and five men is attempting to determine whether Luis Artiga, Victor Bello, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal misappropriated public funds by taking salaries of up to $100,000, paychecks that were beefed up by serving on city boards and authorities that rarely met.

FULL COVERAGE: Bell corruption trial

Handed the case Feb. 22, the jury appears to have struggled to determine whether the salaries, although excessive, were legal.

On Friday, jurors requested a read-back of testimony that appeared to show they were attempting to consider the defendants as individuals.

After the four-week trial, jury deliberations were slowed when a juror was dismissed for misconduct and the panel appeared deadlocked. An alternate juror was named, and since then the panel has had multiple questions and requested testimony read-backs.

Legal experts say the general rule of thumb when it comes to deliberations tends to be one day for every week of testimony. Anything longer, veteran defense attorney Paul Wallin said, is a strong sign of a hung jury or at least a deadlock on some counts.

Closing statements in the Bell trial began on the 19th day of testimony.


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Photo: Former Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez is one of six former council members tried for corruption. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times