Published in
The Empire

Espada Jury Appears Deadlocked

After more than a week of deliberations, the jury in the corruption trial of former state senator Pedro Espada Jr. and his son appears to be deadlocked. The two are accused of siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars from a charitable health clinic for personal gain.

"We...cannot arrive at a unanimous decision concerning the defendants," the jurors said in a note to Federal Judge Frederic Block. The jury had been deliberating for eight days.

Block gathered the jury in the courtroom and issued an "Allen Charge" — a set of instructions to the jury to deliberate a final time, to try and reach a unanimous verdict. He told them that could mean deciding some counts but not others.

"It doesn't have to be all or none," Block said.

He also asked them to continue considering all evidence and examining their own beliefs, and he said there's no reason to expect a future jury could do any better than the current one at coming to a conclusion.

Outside the courthouse, Espada attorney Susan Necheles said it's clear that some jurors feel that her client is not guilty and that the jury is deadlocked.

"We think the judge gave a fair charge to people telling them to stick with their beliefs, and if they're unable to decide, at that point, the judge will declare a mistrial. That's what we expect to happen," she said.

Noting the length of the trial and the publicity surrounding it, Espada said his "heart goes out" to the people in the jury room committed to justice. He added the prosecution failed to prove their case.

Espada admitted the trial is not yet officially over and the fact that the jurors are in disagreement is not new. "Obviously, notes had been proffered from them. So, this doesn't come as a surprise," he said. "And so we must respect where they're at at every moment, and at this moment their work is not completed."

The jury has gone home for the day and is expected to return Thursday.

During deliberations, reports emerged from the jury room of cursing, screaming and name-calling. On Friday, Block met privately with one juror who sent a note to the courtroom characterizing deliberations as "hostile."

The trial has lasted seven weeks. A hung jury could lead to the declaration of a mistrial and re-trying the case.