Renewed jury talks resume in CA corruption case

  • Article by: LINDA DEUTSCH
  • Associated Press
  • March 1, 2013 - 4:07 AM

LOS ANGELES - A jury with a new member is resuming what amounts to new deliberations Friday in the public corruption trial of six former officials in the suburban Los Angeles city of Bell.

A weeping juror was dismissed Thursday for committing misconduct during deliberations after admitting she looked up information online and had her daughter search out a definition of what would constitute coercion by other jurors.

An alternate juror was later placed on the panel and Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy ordered that the case must be decided as if the previous deliberations had never occurred. They deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before they were dismissed for the day.

The dismissal of the juror, an elderly woman, came just days after she asked to be bumped from the panel because other jurors were harassing her.

The former mayor and five city council members are on trial on charges of inflating part-time salaries that should have been closer to $8,000 a year to nearly $100,000. Prosecutors claimed the officials boosted their pay by serving on boards that hardly ever met and nearly bankrupted the tiny Los Angeles surburb.

The defendants said they earned the pay by working long hours and they blamed City Manager Robert Rizzo for the city's plight.

The jury had been in its fifth day of deliberations after a three-week trial.

On Thursday, the jury sent a note to the judge saying they were at an impasse and could not reach verdicts. Then, one juror sent a subsequent note reporting that juror No. 3 told panelists she had called her personal attorney to seek information on what to do about being coerced by other jurors.

The judge summoned defendants and lawyers to her courtroom and asked the juror to explain her actions. The woman said she never actually called a lawyer. At one point, she buried her face in her hands and began to cry.

"Am I in trouble for this?" she asked.

Most of the attorneys and the prosecutor agreed that the juror had to be replaced.

The judge told the juror she was being dismissed.

"You're not in trouble," she told her. "There's no reason to be upset. That's why we have alternates."

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