Fresh jury adjourns in Calif. corruption case

AP News
Posted: Mar 01, 2013 8:26 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A jury with a new member wrapped up its first full day of new deliberations Friday in the public corruption trial of six former officials in the suburban city of Bell.

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

An alternate juror was 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. After less than a day and a half of new deliberations, the jury will return Monday.

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.

Bell's former mayor and five former City Council members are on trial on charges of inflating to nearly $100,000 part-time salaries that should have been closer to $8,000 a year. Prosecutors said the officials boosted their pay by serving on boards that hardly ever met and nearly bankrupted the Los Angeles suburb of 40,000 where one in six residents lives in poverty.

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

The juror's replacement came during what was the original panel's fifth day of deliberations after a three-week trial.

On Thursday, jurors 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.

Kennedy 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.

Kennedy told the juror she was being dismissed.

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