Thursday, April 28, 2005

Another Twist in the Philadelphia Corruption Trial -- "Biased" Juror Removed, Deliberations Begin Anew

The prosecution of former Philadelphia Treasurer Corey Kemp and four other defendants went down a new path yesterday -- one sure to come up on appeal if there is a conviction -- that is likely to send the jury deliberations well into next week when U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson dismissed a juror because of what the judge described as bias against the FBI.  The prosecution is the result of a long-term FBI investigation of corruption in Philadelphia city government that included planting a listening device in Mayor Street's office -- the  Mayor is not a defendant in the case, although he is one of the lead characters in the story.  Judge Baylson dismissed the juror, stating, ""I find that she is biased against the government. She is biased against FBI agents."  A note from the juror appeared to favor the defense, but subsequent notes from other jurors revealed a possible bias against the government not based on the evidence.  The court held additional closed door hearings before announcing the decision to remove the juror and substitute an alternate; the judge then instructed the jury to begin its deliberations all over again with the new juror.

The atmosphere in Judge Baylson's courtroom appears to have moved from poisonous to malignant.  An earlier post (here) discussed how defense lawyers responsed testily to the court's answer to a jury question that they believed was mistaken.  When the judge announced the removal of the juror, defense lawyers are reported to have shouted in demanding a mistrial and accused the judge of becoming "the fifth prosecutor" -- no doubt a reference to Judge Baylson's former position as United States Attorney.  While judges have wide discretion regarding the removal of jurors for cause, even during deliberations, the removal of a juror favorable to the defense is sure to trigger close judicial review if there is a conviction. It's not often that a federal courtroom reflects the side of Philadelphia empitomized by the Broad Street Bullies of the 1970s. An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (here) discusses the court's ruling and provides excerpts from the jury notes. (ph)

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