Bell juror: “It was very, very tense” and could have gotten worse
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Deliberations in the Bell corruption case were “very, very tense” and could have become more heated had a Superior Court judge not declared a mistrial Thursday on outstanding charges against five former leaders in the city, according to a juror.
In an interview with The Times, the juror said dissension on the panel had worsened considerably in the last week.
“We had some jurors who just kind of didn’t care what the instructions were and what the judge said and that was just that,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous and said she was in favor of guilt.
The woman said it was time to end the deliberations.
“It was very, very tense, and I believe that if we hadn’t ended when we did it probably could have been a lot worse,” she said.
“I believe that [the defendants] were good people but that wasn’t what we were there to decide,’ she said. ‘I was doing my best to base everything on the evidence and the facts of the case.”
The Bell corruption trial came to a chaotic end Thursday as the judge declared a mistrial on all outstanding counts, saying “all hell has broken loose” with the deeply divided jury.
An exasperated Judge Kathleen Kennedy drew the case to a close after a bizarre day in which one juror asked to reconsider the guilty verdicts reached Wednesday.
Then, an anonymous juror passed a note to Kennedy urging her to “remind the jury to remain respectful and not to make false accusations and insults to one another.”
Defense attorneys said they were stunned by the turn of events in the downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
“The verdicts came out and then it got weird,” said Stanley L. Friedman, who represents one of the accused former city leaders.
At one point, a juror inquired about Bell’s former city attorney, Ed Lee, who was not charged in the sweeping corruption probe and didn’t testify during the trial. The juror wrote to Kennedy that knowing more about Lee would help the panel in deliberations and to be “certain beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jurors spent 17 days behind closed doors before convicting Victor Bello, George Cole, Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal of driving up their salaries by serving on an authority that prosecutors said rarely met and, in one case, may have been invented as a device to push their paychecks even higher.
The panel of seven women and five men acquitted the defendants on an equal number of charges and was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining charges.
Luis Artiga, a pastor, was exonerated on all counts.
-- Corina Knoll, Jeff Gottlieb, Richard Winton and Ruben Vives