Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Delay in Jury Delibertations Should Be Minimal Say Legal Experts

A defense attorney at Chicago's biggest mob trial in years said Friday he is unhappy about a delay in jury deliberations, but experts suggested its impact on the case is likely to be minimal.

Professor James B. Jacobs of New York University School of Law said in a telephone interview that "trial judges have a great deal of leeway in managing their juries and granting delays and adjournments."

"Sometimes a juror gets sick and they suspend jury deliberations," he said. "I can say for sure that it's not automatically impermissible. Does it raise an issue in the event that the defendants are convicted? Sure."

He said defense attorneys might be able to argue the delay prejudiced jurors "because it broke the flow of the discussions or increased the risk the jurors might discuss the case" with outsiders. "But I think the presumption is that the management of the trial is properly up to the trial judge," he added.

Professor John R. Kroger of Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who as a federal prosecutor handled organized crime cases, said trial adjournments are common enough but "it's a little unusual for jury deliberations to be adjourned."

Some judges who must leave during jury deliberations arrange for another judge in the same courthouse to handle any matters that arise.

"I don't know why the judge chose not to go that route here," Kroger said. But he suggested defense attorneys' protests might yield little.

"I doubt there's any real appellate issue there as long as the judge ensures when the jury returns that they haven't been discussing the case during the adjournment and that they haven't been following media reports," he said. "In that case there should be no problem with them returning after a week off."

Lombardo and three co-defendants could face life sentences if jurors find them responsible for specific murders. The fifth defendant convicted, retired Chicago police officer Anthony Doyle, is not accused of directly taking part in any of the murders.

If the jurors do not find the four defendants responsible for specific murders, they still face 20-year maximum sentences on for racketeering and some who were convicted of other offenses such as obstruction of justice, tax fraud and gambling could be subject to more time.

Thanks to Mike Robinson

Vitacost.com

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