Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Juror Out Sick in Mob Trial

It looks like the flu bug has scuttled deliberations in the racketeering trial of mob boss Joseph "Uncle Joe" Ligambi and six co-defendants.

The trial was put on hold Tuesday when one of the jurors called out sick. The panel is due back in court Wednesday morning when U.S. District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno will decide how to proceed.

If the juror reports, the deliberations will likely pick up where they left off Monday afternoon. If the juror calls out sick again, then some decisions may have to be made.

The options, according to several individuals familiar with the process, are replacing the juror with one of four alternates who have been on standby but not participating in the deliberations; proceeding with 11 jurors, or waiting another day to see if the juror recovers.

The juror who called out sick is an older African-American woman. The panel of seven men and five women, chosen anonymously, has been deliberating since last Tuesday following nearly three months of testimony in the case.

Should an alternate be seated in the sick juror's place, the deliberations would have to begin again from scratch. That prospect could further delay a verdict in the case.

Ligambi, 73, and his co-defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy in a case built around allegations of loansharking, extortion, sports betting and the distribution and operation of illegal video poker machines.

Monday's deliberations ended with a question about ownership of machines seized in law enforcement raids during the decade-long investigation. The jury had asked a similar question last week and was told that information was not available.

One defense attorney, asked about the prospect of an alternate juror and deliberations starting from scratch, cited that question in response.

"It looks like they're starting over anyway," he said. "So it might not really matter."

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