'This is not reality TV,' Menendez judge tells jurors as they resume deliberations

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 04:25:55 AM. U.S. District Judge William Walls sent the panel back with slightly new instructions to continue deliberations

NEWARK --The judge in the federal corruption trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez told jurors Tuesday morning that they should take as much time as needed in the deliberation room and that they should not feel the need to hurry.

Jurors returned to the courthouse a day after telling the judge Monday afternoon they were deadlocked on all charges, but U.S. District Judge William H. Walls refused to declare a mistrial following the word from the jury.

"I hope you had a good dinner, and more importantly, I hope you had a good sleep," Walls told the jurors when they returned to the courtroom Tuesday.

The judge also gave new instructions to the jurors before they began deliberations.

"This is not reality TV," he said, instructing jurors that they shouldn't hesitate to re-examine their own views. "This is real life."

The panel - with one new member as of Monday - has been deliberating for more than a week in the case of the New Jersey Democrat, who is accused of taking lavish bribes from his co-defendant, Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, in exchange for intervening in government matters on the doctor's behalf.

Menendez is also accused of intentionally concealing from the Senate Melgen's gifts by omitting them from his annual disclosure forms.

After the jurors were sent back to the jury room to deliberate, defense attorney Abbe Lowell objected to Walls' comments to the panel that other juries had been able to reach verdicts after being similarly deadlocked -- remarks the attorney argued differed from the standard legal instruction to a hung jury.

Walls responded that Lowell's "desire to quarrel with him" had no merit, and that in his experience, hung juries have later become "unhung."

"I don't appreciate unnecessary nitpicking," Walls said.

Lowell, who has sparred with the judge on numerous past occasions, said he did not rise to object because he had a "desire to quarrel," but only to defend his client's interests.

Melgen's lead attorney, Kirk Ogrosky, told Walls he had an issue with the judge telling jurors on Monday to "negotiate" rather than "deliberate." Walls said the wording Ogrosky requested was included in the additional charge he read Tuesday morning.

Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby, a juror excused from the panel last week for a pre-planned vacation, told reporters that the jury was split on whether to convict Menendez and Melgen of the bribery charges, and that she had been the only one prepared to acquit Menendez of making false statements on the Senate disclosure forms.

The trial in Newark began on Sept. 6, and could last through Thanksgiving under a schedule previously approved by Walls.

Thomas Moriarty may be reached by email at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty.

MaryAnn Spoto may be reached at mspoto@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryAnnSpoto. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

...Read more
Share this

You might also like