Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Jury deliberations have apparently hit a snag in the corruption trial of six former Philadelphia narcotics officers.
The panel of six women and six men sent a message to Judge Eduardo Robreno late this afternoon indicating there was "an impasse." The note, delivered shortly before 3 p.m. read, "If we are at an impasse on one or more of the counts, what is the direction of the court?"
The jury is weighing the evidence and testimony introduced to support a 24-count indictment. There was no indication on which counts the jury may be stalled. The question would seem to imply that the jury has reached consensus on some of the charges, but there is no way to determine whether they have voted to convict or acquit.
"It's like reading tea leaves," said one member of the defense camp before the judge responded to the jury question.
Family members and friends of the six defendants have sprawled across the 15th floor hallway outside Robreno's courtroom during the deliberation process. The panel got the case late Thursday afternoon after hearing nearly six weeks of testimony and closing arguments. Today marked the third full day of deliberations.
Robreno told the jurors to keep on deliberating.
"Although it might seem like eternity, it's only been three and one-half days," the judge said. "It's a complex case . . . We urge you to continue to deliberate."
He then read a small portion of the charge he had given the jurors before they began deliberations on Thursday, telling them to "keep an on mind and listen to what your fellow jurors have to say," but cautioning them against a rush to judgment simply to end the case.
"Your vote must be exactly that, your vote," he said.
The six members of the Philadelphia Police Department Narcotics Field Unit are charged with stealing more than $500,000 in cash, drugs and other valuables from drug dealers and then falsifying police reports to cover their crimes.
The alleged conspiracy ran from 2006 to 2012.
One former member of the unit, Jeffrey Walker, testified for the prosecution along with a dozen admitted drug dealers, many of whom have filed civil suits against the city for what they alleged were actions that denied them their constitutional rights.
The defense called more than a dozen police officers and police supervisors who refuted the bulk of the prosecution testimony. Many defense witnesses praised the work of the six defendants, calling them heroes and the front line in the war on drugs.
Only one defendant, Michael Spicer, testified but his testimony was seen as a defense for all six of those charged. The other defendants are Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.
The principal charge in the case -- count one -- is a racketeering conspiracy count that encompasses all the alleged criminal acts committed by the defendants. The other charges focus on specific acts involving threats, use of force and the doctoring of evidence and police reports.
Jury deliberations are set to resume tomorrow at 9 a.m. Most observers believe tomorrow will be the day in which the jury overcomes the logjam it is now facing or announces that it is deadlocked. The announcement of a partial verdict on the counts that have already been decided is also possible.
George Anastasia can be reached at George@bigtrial.net.