‘Holy Spirit’ juror drives Corrine Brown appeal push
Corrine Brown’s latest appeal continued this week.

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New judges from Florida seemed sympathetic to former Congresswoman's case.

Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown left office nearly five years ago under the weight of indictment, convicted on 18 counts related to fraud. Due to the coronavirus epidemic, she was released early in her five year prison stretch.

But she still seeks exoneration. And to that end, the Jacksonville Democrat continued Tuesday to press her case for appeal on the grounds of a pro-Brown juror being eliminated from the jury pool during her original hearing.

Tuesday saw the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals hear her case. No ruling was made during the Zoom meeting.

After days of deliberation during the former Congresswoman’s trial, the so-called “Juror 13” claimed that the “Holy Spirit” had told him before and during the trial that Brown wasn’t guilty.

The juror then was removed over the fruitless protests of Brown’s lawyers during the early slog of deliberations.

Soon thereafter, she was found guilty on the majority of counts. Years after the fact, Brown continues to fight that plea.

Attorneys for the defendant made a case that has been made before: that guidance from the divine is no disqualifier from a jury’s evidentiary process.

Brown’s attorney, Paul Clement, argued that the district court did not meet the “appropriately tough” standard of dismissal and therefore violated Brown’s constitutional rights.

Brown’s lawyer struggled to find precedent for a reversal of a verdict on those grounds when pressed by the justices during the hearing.

When asked by Justice Adalberto Jordan of Miami if his position would be the same if “Satan” were credited with guidance, Clement said his argument would still hold.

“Put Satan aside for a second,” Clement advised the President Barack Obama appointee, saying that the court’s original decision could lead to things like “intuition” being dismissed also.

He also noted that there was no dispute that the juror was “deliberating” as he should. The original judge, he contended, should have canvassed the entire jury to get a better sense of how Juror 13 was functioning.

The federal position remains unchanged. Juror 13’s position was justified in the record, and the district court has the ultimate responsibility and latitude to conduct the trial as it sees fit.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals includes two recent Florida appointees from the Donald Trump era, each of whom came from the state’s Supreme Court. If Brown is ultimately vindicated, their arguments may be part of the reason why

Justice Robert Luck posed the question to David Rhodes, a government lawyer that there was a “reasonable possibility” that Juror 13 could have been guided by the facts despite the assertion of being guided from above.

Justice Barbara Lagoa also pressed the prosecutor on what he had called a “radioactive statement” about faith as a guiding principle.

Lagoa described the Catholic precept of the “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit” which include “the prayer for counsel.”

“The trial court judge here, what he did was really make a personal rule. You can pray, but if you get a response, that’s an external influence,” Lagoa said, pressing the government on excluding the juror.

“A lot of people believe in asking and seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit,” Lagoa said.

Brown served Jacksonville in Congress from 1992 to 2016, with her districts often receiving national attention for the extreme gerrymandering that constructed them. For most of her career, her district spanned south from Jacksonville to as far away as Orlando, and in parts her district was only a few hundred yards wide.

The 2016 election, her final one, was the only one in which she was running to serve a district that ran from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. The new map represented a final sea change in Brown’s political career. Under indictment and unable to raise money, she lost in the primary to Rep. Al Lawson.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com


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