Update 4:13 p.m.: The judge in the corruption trial of six former Bell city council members dismissed a woman from the jury panel Thursday and replaced her with an alternate. This follows a week of deliberations and leaves the jury to start over again.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy did not reprimand juror number 3 when she excused her. But Kennedy did say in court that she found the woman’s conduct unacceptable.
That juror said she had consulted a legal website to see how she could stop what she called “the harassment” of other jurors. She had also asked her daughter to research the word “coercion” and brought a copy of the definition to court. Kennedy said she didn’t feel the juror could continue to serve on the panel.
Most of the attorneys and the prosecutor agreed that the woman should be excused. But outside the courtroom, attorney George Mgdesyan, who represents defendant Luis Artiga, said he didn’t see the juror’s actions as “misconduct.”
“It was obvious she was trying to do the right thing," Mgdesyan said. "I don’t think she did anything intentionally to do anything wrong. There was obviously some heated discussion inside, and she was frustrated to say the least.”
The same juror had written a note earlier in the week asking the judge to excuse her because she said other jurors were treating her badly. The judge turned down that request.
When she excused her this time, the juror left the courtroom in tears.
The judge selected an alternate juror by drawing from four ping pong balls in an L.A. Dodgers helmet. She told the jury it must now start over, as if it hadn’t deliberated at all.
The jury is deciding the fates of six former Bell officials charged with misappropriating public funds.
Previously: Two jurors sent a note to the judge on Thursday morning, saying the jury was hopelessly deadlocked because of "fundamental disagreements." After excusing juror number 3, Kennedy said their note was moot, since there were only 11 jurors to be questioned.
Kennedy then selected an alternate to replace the excused juror and instructed the jury to resume its work as if it had not deliberated at all.
Six former officeholders in the suburban city of Bell, California are accused of illegally giving themselves exorbitant salaries.
During the trial the prosecution said the defendants convinced themselves they were entitled to their six-figure salaries for part-time positions governing the tiny blue-collar city, where the median income is $35,000.
Defense attorneys argued that their clients earned their salaries and that any illegal activity was the work of former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, who is awaiting his own corruption trial.