April 22, 2005
Atmosphere at the Philadelphia Corruption Trial Turns Poisonous
The trial of former Philadelphia Treasurer Corey Kemp and four other defendants on corruption charges has started to resemble a game at Veterans Stadium as tensions have risen with the jury still deliberating after being instructed last week. U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson interviewed each of the jurors separately on Wednesday, and apparently the subject of the judge's inquiry was a note sent out by one juror that another juror believes the FBI lied during the investigation and at trial. The wiretaps in the case, including one place in Mayor Street's office, were a bone of contention during the trial, and the defense questioned whether the prosecution of Kemp and the other four defendants, including two Commerce Bank executives, was brought to justify the extensive investigation undertaken by the FBI of Mayor Street's administration. The judge has refused to disclose transcripts from the juror interviews and sealed four notes sent out from the jury room. If the jury convicts, the juror interviews are almost certain to be a ground for a request for a new trial and an appeal.
Tension between the defense lawyers and Judge Baylson has gotten pretty high. A local observer mentioned that the lawyers are upset at Judge Baylson for what they perceived as his pro-government approach -- he is a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania -- including rolling his eyes when defense counsel examined witnesses and a hostile tone. At a hearing yesterday, the tension boiled over as defense counsel objected to an instruction given to the jury in response to a question, when Judge Baylson said that Kemp was acting in an official capacity, a point disputed by the defense. George Parry, Kemp's lawyer, said to the judge, "I don't know why you just didn't tell them to convict Corey Kemp . . . Direct a verdict of guilt. You ought to be the 13th juror." Later, when Judge Baylson reminded the defense lawyers that "I'm the judge," one defense lawyer replied, "And the jury." And you thought it was tough to be on the Phillies (or Eagles, Flyers, 76ers . . .). An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (here) discusses the happenings in court. (ph)
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