Juror in Silver Trial Asks to Be Excused

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Juror in Silver Trial Asks to Be Excused.

Not long after jurors convened on Tuesday to decide whether Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, once one of the most powerful politicians in New York State, was guilty of fraud, there were already unmistakable signs that their deliberations had taken a contentious turn. “I am wondering if there is anyway I can be excused from this case, because I have a different opinion/view so far in this case and it is making me feel very, very uncomfortable.” That plea to be excused from the case came in a note from an unidentified juror, sent to the judge, Valerie E. Caproni, less than two hours after deliberations had started in Federal District Court in Manhattan. “I’m feeling pressured, stressed out … told that I’m not using my common sense, my heart is pounding and my head feels weird,” the juror wrote. “I am so stressed out right now that I can’t even write normally. Silver is on trial for allegedly using his official position to receive nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks. “One of the jurors is having difficulty distinguishing whether or not exchanging state funds for something in return is illegal,” the note read, which requested a “code of conduct or ethics” to shed light on the question. “It’s too early for a juror to throw in the towel,” Caproni said, saying she instead would tell all jurors to “be respectful of everyone’s view.” Prosecutors accuse Silver of abusing his office for years, collecting millions of dollars in kickbacks for favors provided to a cancer researcher and real estate developers.

Silver’s lawyers have argued vigorously that his actions over the years were legal, and that conflicts of interest were unavoidable for lawmakers, especially in a state capital known for its dysfunction. I need to leave!” After a prosecutor recommended she be released as a juror, the judge said it was too early to do so, and said she would urge jurors to respectfully exchange views. After receiving the question on funds, Judge Caproni reiterated parts of her instructions, despite the defense’s argument that it could be seen as her advocating for the government’s position if she reiterated details of federal law. In closing arguments Monday, the jury heard the case boil down to two conflicting portrayals of the once-powerful Democrat: one as a greedy lawmaker who enriched himself with bribery and another as a seasoned politician who played by the rules regarding outside income. “Why did Sheldon Silver do it? The evidence, he added, “shows that Sheldon Silver was a master of every form of deception — lying, keeping secrets, even splitting hairs.” He also took aim at the defense’s accusation that overzealous prosecutors were trying to criminalize behavior that’s politics as usual in the Assembly. “Let’s dispense with the nonsense … and let’s talk about the evidence, which Sheldon Silver tried desperately to keep secret for years,” he said.

In the voir dire process, jurors with strong opinions about the case were weeded out, and jurors seemed to talk amicably among themselves during breaks. The jury includes three people in nursing, a transit employee, a campus recruiter, an employee with the New York City Education Department, a salesman, a preschool teacher, a cabdriver, an office manager and a technician. Dean Skelos and his son at a nearby courthouse on charges that the Republican badgered companies reliant upon his legislative support to funnel more than $300,000 to the son. (TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. Silver’s lawyers, Joel Cohen, told the judge at a sidebar conference that a male juror on the panel had been observed talking to someone inside an NBC News truck near the courthouse.

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