Bell Jurors to Begin Anew After Panelist Dismissed
LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — After nearly five days of deliberations, jurors in the Bell corruption trial will have to begin again after a panelist was dismissed on Thursday.
The 60-year-old woman, identified only as Juror No. 3, will be replaced by an alternate juror, and deliberations will have to start over.
The woman was dismissed for misconduct for conducting research on the Internet and talking to her daughter about the case.
Earlier in the week, she had asked to be excused, claiming she was being mistreated by other members of the jury.
Kennedy told the woman that, although discussions can get heated, it was important to keep deliberating.
On Thursday, she admitted that she contacted her daughter and told her she was being coerced by other jurors, and had gone online to better understand jury rules.
She came across the word “coercion,” and after her daughter helped her look it up, she wrote down the definition on a piece of paper and brought it with her to court.
All but one defense attorney requested that the woman stay, but Judge Kathleen Kennedy said the juror needed to be removed.
“She has spoken about the deliberations with her daughter, she has conducted research on the Internet, and I’ve repeatedly, repeatedly throughout this trial — probably hundreds of times — cautioned the jury not to do that,” she said.
The removal came after jurors notified the judge that they were at an impasse.
“Your honor, we have reached a point where as a jury we have fundamental disagreements and cannot reach a unanimous verdict in this case,” read a note signed by two jurors, including the foreman, that was given to Kennedy.
A note from another juror alerted the judge that Juror No. 3 had consulted an outside attorney.
That did not appear to be the case, but her other actions were revealed under questioning from the judge.
The six former Bell city officials are on trial for multiple counts of misappropriating city funds by being paid for work on city boards that seldom met and did little work.
Their pay for the boards boosted their salaries to as high as $100,000 a year.
Prosecutors said that Bell’s charter follows state law regarding council members’ compensation.
Given the size of the city, they say, council member should be paid no more than $8.076 per year.
Defense attorney Stanley Friedman, who represents former mayor Oscar Hernandez, one of the “Bell 6,” says the panelists must now “start all over again.”
“There’s an issue as to whether the salaries were legal or not — the defense contends the salaries were legal– and the jury has asked to see portions of the California constitution and portions of the Bell city charter,” he said.
“So it wouldn’t be right for the other jurors to say, ‘We’ve already done this, what do you think?’” They should really start afresh, brand new, like they have never talked about the case.”
The trial began in late January, and the case went to the jury last Friday.