Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Scrushy Jury Puts Its Nose Back to the Grindstone

After the holiday weekend, the jury in the prosecution of Richard Scrushy returns to work after spending a week hung up on trying to reach unanimity on the first charge of the indictment, the broad conspiracy count.  The jury's frustration was clear when it sent a note to U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre asking her whether they had to be unanimous on the conspiracy count, and then putting a large "YES OR NO. Please circle one" beneath the question.  That sure sounds like a conversation between a parent and a teenager.  A New York Times article (here) quotes co-editor Ellen Podgor's discussing the potential problems with the conspiracy count, that it can be the easiest to prove but the hardest to explain to jurors in understandable terms.  See her earlier post here discussing the the complexity of conspiracy charges.  Another point noted in the Times article is that Judge Bowdre has allowed the jury to set its own deliberation schedule, and the pressure to reach a verdict may not be there yet to force the deliberations toward a resolution, one way or the other.  The almost contemptuous tone of the jury's note may indicate that the judge needs to take a more active role in moving them forward. (ph)

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