Highlights from the jury deliberation in the trial of Corrine Brown include procedural questions, and questions about jurors themselves.
Mail fraud question from jury: Does the government have to prove all elements of the jury instruction on the six counts of mail fraud for Corrine Brown to found guilty?
That was a question from the jury Wednesday afternoon.
The defense said that all elements of mail fraud had to apply, while the prosecution contended that “aiding and abetting” could also be a necessary threshold.
Yet another jury question with an uncontroversial answer.
Is Corrine Brown responsible for her tax filings?: It took almost two full days of deliberation and the removal of a juror whose religious mania caused concerns, but jurors actually raised a question Wednesday morning – the first one of the trial so far.
That question – at long last – offered insight into the jury’s actual deliberations.
The question: is Brown responsible for everything on her taxes, given that she didn’t prepare or sign them?
Of the 22 counts faced by the former Congresswoman, four are tax counts: one regarding false information, three regarding tax returns from 2012 to 2014.
Prosecutor A. Tysen Duva affirmed jury instructions addressed this issue, while Defense Attorney James Smith noted the feds have the “burden of proof.”
Judge Corrigan’s advice: “follow the jury instructions.”
If one is reading the tea leaves for signs of reasonable doubt prevailing from the jury on tax counts, that somewhat philosophical question provides the first glimpse – except for the religious mania documented below – that such exists.
Bounced juror shows mental strain, talks of ‘higher beings’: Judge Corrigan kicked off Wednesday noting that there was an “issue with a juror,” one that required discussion ahead of the beginning of the proceedings.
That issue: a juror made an “unsolicited call” to Corrigan’s courtroom deputy, which heard the juror say that she and other jurors were “concerned” about another juror talking about “higher beings” and Corrine Brown.
The courtroom deputy cut the juror off there, and the matter was brought to Corrigan’s attention, setting up the 8:15 hearing.
Corrigan asked counsel its position. The feds, citing case law, suggested that the court inquire with the juror to further develop a record, then discuss it with the foreperson. The defense cited the same case law, agreeing with the government that discussion with the juror should be “in camera.”
Corrigan noted the jury’s diligence and “smooth” deliberations, distinguishing from case law that had more radical examples (U.S. Vs Augustine, U.S. Vs Abel, U.S. Vs Godwin, U.S. Vs. Gibrard, U.S. Vs. Burress, U.S. Vs Decoud) where aberrational thinking became an issue for jurors.
“In all of those case, there was much more information that the court had … notes written by the foreperson of the jury … a letter written about religious beliefs … much more tangible evidence of a real problem in deliberations,” Corrigan noted.
“There is a strong statement in these cases,” Corrigan said, “that court should err on the side of too little inquiry as opposed to too much. In some of these cases … where there was the first sign of trouble … the jury was told its duty” and sent back for deliberations.
“It is difficult to tell how serious it is … it could be part of the natural … dialogue that goes on in any jury deliberations,” Corrigan said, regarding this case.
“I do want to make sure we don’t put this inquiry in the same category as these other cases,” Corrigan noted, adding that simply readvising the jury of their duties could be an option.
Prosecutor Duva said that wasn’t enough.
“This juror at night made the decision to pick up the phone, call the courtroom deputy, and play this out … from the beginning, this juror was saying these kinds of things … and other jurors felt the way she did.”
Smith likewise wants an “inquiry” into the evidence here, “as soon as possible.”
Corrigan noted that the complaining juror might also be the problem, necessitating further inquiry in any case in an in camera proceeding.
First Amendment and Sixth Amendment rights, regarding the public and the press hearing this part of the proceedings, are eclipsed, said Corrigan, by the “overriding interest” to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial, and “shielding from public scrutiny … the jurors’ deliberations.”
“We’ve already discussed the issue in open court,” Corrigan said, and inquiries into “religion” and other such matters could lead to a “temporary” closure of the court.
After a hearing stretching over an hour and a half, the juror (an unemployed man from Middleburg) was excused – and an alternate was called into service.