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Jury resumes talks in California corruption case

Thursday - 3/21/2013, 3:23pm  ET

Luis Artiga reacts after being acquitted on all charges in the Bell corruption trial on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Los Angeles. Five former elected officials were convicted of multiple counts of misappropriation of public funds. Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez and co-defendants George Cole, Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, and Victor Belo were all convicted of multiple counts and acquitted of others. The charges against them involved paying themselves inflated salaries of up to $100,000 a year in the city of 36,000 people, where one in four residents live below the poverty line. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Irfan Khan, Pool)

GREG RISLING
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A jury in the civic corruption trial of former elected officials in the blue-collar, California city of Bell resumed deliberations Thursday, with at least one member indicating in a note that an improper guilty verdict might have been reached earlier.

Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy heard arguments from defense attorneys over the note and an earlier juror message, but said she would not revisit verdicts that had already been reached and ordered deliberations on undecided counts.

"The chips are going to fall where they fall," Kennedy said.

Jurors reached mixed verdicts on Wednesday of guilty and not guilty for a former mayor and four former Bell City Council members, and acquitted a sixth defendant of all charges.

Jurors were unable to decide on numerous other allegations of misappropriation of public funds and Kennedy told them to keep deliberating.

On Thursday, one juror, who asked to remain anonymous, sent a note to the judge that referenced a verdict involving one of the municipal boards that prosecutors contend the officials used to help boost their salaries.

"I have been debating in my own mind that due to the pressure and stress of the deliberation process the jury may have given an improper verdict on the Solid Waste Authority," the note said. "It is better to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt to give a verdict of guilty than send someone innocent to prosecution."

In a note sent Wednesday, a juror identified as No. 10 said she thought the jury was straying from the judge's instructions.

Defense attorneys argued Thursday that the notes might indicate there is misconduct in deliberations.

"There may be horse-trading to give up one verdict to get another," said defense lawyer Alex Kessel, who represents former Councilman George Mirabal.

Kennedy said pressure is placed on juries in all cases that involve deliberations.

"That is not tantamount to misconduct," she said.

Defense attorneys also questioned whether the jury instructions were prejudicial to their clients.

At one point, defense attorney Ron Kaye, who represents ex-Councilman George Cole, suggested that jurors hear more evidence about the case, drawing an angry rebuke from the judge.

"You are not going to reopen evidence," she said. "That is not provided. No!"

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