Hostile Deliberations Revealed : Miller Mistrial Jurors Trade Bitter Charges
The jurors who deadlocked in the espionage trial of Richard W. Miller traded bitter accusations Thursday after the mistrial in the case and revealed the hostile mood of the deliberations that left them unable to reach a verdict.
Criticized as an “embryo psychologist” by a fellow juror, an Orange County mental health worker who was one of the two holdouts for acquittal accused the jury’s majority of trying to pressure her into changing her vote.
She charged that the government should never have prosecuted Miller.
“The evidence to me simply wasn’t there. The case never should have come to trial,” said Virginia Hennes, a Fountain Valley mother of six who is working on a doctorate in connection with her mental health career. She voted to acquit Miller on all of seven espionage counts.
Seeks New Foreman
Bobby R. Rivera, the other vote for acquittal in the case of the first FBI agent ever charged as a spy, revealed that the deliberations had become so bitter that he had finally asked that the jury foreman be replaced.
Rivera, a production supervisor for Ralphs Grocery Co. who lives in Anaheim, was denounced by some other jurors as a prima donna who had tried to take over the jury’s deliberations. On the final jury tally, he voted to acquit on the three most serious spying counts.
He said his main reason for voting to acquit Miller was that he believed the FBI had unfairly coerced confessions from the ex-agent during five days of interrogation that led to Miller’s arrest.
“I think he was manipulated under interrogation,” Rivera said. “I just held true to my convictions and the other jurors were very frustrated with my unwillingness to believe the testimony that came out of those five days of interrogation.”
Other members of the jury, who believed that Miller was guilty of passing secret documents to agents of the Soviet Union, claimed that Hennes and Rivera were unwilling to listen to their arguments in favor of conviction and were aloof to all efforts at persuasion.
“The rest of us, we went by the evidence and the witnesses,” said one of the jurors, Frank Clement Saylor, a 73-year-old retired airline pilot from La Crescenta. “The other two thought there was undue interrogation by the FBI and that Miller had spoken under duress.”
The jury foreman, who presided over the panel’s 14-day futile effort to reach a verdict, also criticized the two holdouts.
“They did not appear to be too willing to fully explain to the other 10 people their logic and reasons,” said jury Foreman William T. Loomis, a 58-year-old supervisor in Northrop Corp’s electronics division. “It was all, ‘You 10 people are biased in your direction and not listening.’ ”
Loomis also was mildly critical of prosecutors for making it look as if the government was “out to hang the guy.”
“You could have gotten the feeling that the bureaucratic department was out to hang the guy,” he said, criticizing the government for calling 75 witnesses to testify against Miller.
“It is entirely possible because of all of that, you could have misinterpreted the intent and think there was a conspiracy against him,” he said.
The jurors spoke out on the deadlock while prosecutors and defense lawyers were regrouping to prepare for a second trial of Miller, 48, a former Soviet counterintelligence agent in the FBI’s Los Angeles office who was arrested Oct. 2, 1984, on charges of passing documents to agents of the Soviet Union in exchange for money and sex.
Interviews with jurors by Times reporters revealed these additional facts about the deliberations and the problems that led to the jury’s deadlock:
- The jury took its first vote after three days of deliberations and remained deadlocked from that time on, with Hennes and Rivera in favor of acquittal. Rivera modified his position the day before the mistrial was declared, voting for conviction on three of the seven charges against Miller. But Hennes held out for acquittal on all charges.
- The two holdouts told other jurors that they were skeptical about the testimony of a key government witness, former FBI Agent John Hunt, who had attempted to recruit convicted Soviet spy Svetlana Ogorodnikova to work as an FBI informant before she met Miller. Ogorodnikova had claimed that she had a sexual affair with Hunt, as well as with Miller, but Hunt had denied the charge.
- While some jurors praised Hennes for standing by her convictions, they disclosed that there was friction with Rivera. One juror identified Rivera as the juror who had insisted that three days of testimony be re-read to the jury, a time-consuming process that angered some members of the jury.
Saylor Most Outspoken
The most outspoken of the jurors who favored conviction was Saylor, who said he decided to talk because he thinks that the “taxpayers” have a right to know what went on inside the jury room.
Saylor referred to Hennes as an “embryo psychologist.” He criticized Rivera for “prancing around the jury room like a chairman of the board trying to direct everything.”
Also speaking out was Barbara LeBallister, a Paso Robles resident.
“Most of us thought the government did a good job,” she said. “I think we could have gone on for another year and we couldn’t have changed those people. . . . To most of us it was black and white.”
Cautious in Comments
Lorayne Ann Carlson, 37, a resident of Upland, who voted guilty on all seven counts, was cautious in her comments, saying that she did not want to prejudice the next jury hearing the case.
“I feel it’s unfortunate that this jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the seven counts,” she said in a prepared statement. “I believe it would be inappropriate at this time to discuss anything regarding the trial or deliberations since the government is attempting to schedule a new trial date.”
Virginia Chavez, 43, a Los Angeles resident who works as a disability analyst for the state Department of Social Services, said she intended to reserve most of her observations for U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner, who contacted jurors Thursday to ask them to give him “feedback” to help in preparing for Miller’s next trial.
“I’m very, very tired and I’m sure everyone else is too,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that it (the jury) was hung. It’s very disappointing.”
Rivera, 30, said he believed that Miller, an excommunicated Mormon, was guilty throughout the trial until he heard the testimony of Dr. Armand Mauss, an expert on the Mormon religion who was called as a defense witness and who Rivera remembered as saying that “reality is a negotiated product.”
Did ‘Nothing Illegal’
He said that despite the FBI’s 24-hour surveillance of Miller for almost a month, no evidence was produced that, in his view, proved that Miller “had done anything illegal other than seeing someone who happened to be a Soviet immigrant.”
Rivera said he still is not certain whether Miller was guilty or not.
“But I wouldn’t allow them to sway or bully me,” he said. “It got heated at times. It got tense. There were a lot of strong personalities in the room, myself included. We had to stand up to be heard because the foreman wanted to keep a close rein on the direction of the deliberations.”
Frustrated by the tight control of Loomis, Rivera said, he proposed last Friday to his fellow jurors that they appoint a new foreman. He said the proposal “caused an uproar. . . . Everybody was upset.”
Rivera charged that Loomis would not give the two holdout jurors an opportunity to discuss the issues.
‘Wanted to Take a Vote’
“He appeared to be in a rush to get through with deliberations,” Rivera said. “From the first day he wanted to take a vote to expedite the deliberations, rather than listen to the differences of the minority.”
As a result, Rivera said that on Monday Loomis agreed to allow another juror, Jerry Brown, to act as a mediator sharing the foreman’s post with Loomis. Brown was one of several jurors who declined comment Thursday.
In the case of Hennes, the objections to finding Miller guilty were not confined to the single issue of the impact of the FBI’s five-day interrogation of the ex-agent, during which period Miller changed his story from denying that he had passed documents to Ogorodnikova to finally admitting that he had given her secret information.
“The evidence, to me, simply wasn’t there. There were no hard facts,” Hennes said. “When the trial finished, I wrote down 32 reasonable doubts. They say you have to judge beyond a reasonable doubt and I had 32 of them.”
One of her doubts, Hennes said, was that an FBI agent named Paul DeFlores had really seen Miller and Ogorodnikova on Sept. 26 in a Little League ballpark near the FBI building in Westwood. Prosecutors had cited testimony by DeFlores as a reason why Miller notified the FBI of his involvement with Ogorodnikova the next day.
Taken to Ballpark
At the end of the testimony in the Miller case, jurors had been driven to the ballpark to view the scene and to judge for themselves whether DeFlores could have seen Miller and whether Miller could have recognized DeFlores.
“I knew there was no way he (Miller) could have seen him,” said Hennes. “He didn’t even have his glasses on. I couldn’t accept that testimony.”
Hennes also questioned whether the FBI would have allowed Miller to proceed in handing over secret documents to a Soviet agent if investigators really believed that he had them in his possession when he was observed meeting with Ogorodnikova Sept. 12, 1984, carrying an envelope in his hand.
“Why would they just let him hand those over to an enemy agent?” she asked. “Why didn’t they stop him?”
Defending herself, Hennes said she “knew” she was suspect as a juror inclined to support the defense because of her mental health background.
“I didn’t want to be thought of as a bleeding heart, which I’m not,” she said. “I believed Miller. I believed the man. I think the defense attorney called him, what, a Ralph Kramden? I call him an Inspector Clouseau, OK? He was trying, but he didn’t do such a very good job.”
Hennes said she came away from the trial with a disturbing portrait of the FBI, an agency which she said appeared determined to paint Miller as a spy.
“I’m telling you the truth; I’m a little afraid of the FBI. I’ve had nightmares, so help me God,” she said. “This is a very powerful agency. . . . It’s scary. To me, I don’t think that Miller could ever get a fair trial, because it’s the FBI against Miller.”
While Rivera and Hennes said they were unhappy with the deliberations, Loomis and Saylor expressed their unhappiness with the deadlock.
“I was saddened we were not able to bring this thing to a unanimous conclusion and put it to rest one way or another,” Loomis said.
“I don’t like to do things I don’t finish. I don’t like to pass my responsibility to somebody else. I’m saddened by it. It’s tragic. It’s not fair to either side.”
From the third day of deliberations, Loomis said the voting had remained almost the same. He said the first vote was 9 to 2 in favor of conviction, with one juror undecided. The undecided juror, identified by other sources as Helene Rosenstein, 56, of Oak Park switched her vote to guilty two days later.
After the fifth day of deliberations, according to Loomis, the jury lineup remained deadlocked at 10 in favor of conviction and two for acquittal. It was only the day before the mistrial was declared, other sources said, that Rivera modified his stand on three of the counts.
“I sincerely believed those two people would not change their opinions enough to make it a unanimous decision,” Loomis said. “They were reticent to accept certain portions of the testimony as valid testimony.”
While Loomis was mildly critical of the prosecution for putting on too many witnesses, he was even more critical of Miller’s defense lawyers, Stanley Greenberg and Joel Levine.
He said defense lawyers “should have paid more attention to defending the gentleman from some of the things that were presented. . . . I saw no attempt to discredit, rebut, deny his own admission of things . . . his saying certain things in his home, for example.”
Loomis said he was not persuaded by the defense argument that Miller had been under intense pressure from his FBI superiors.
“I’m convinced a man with 18 years of experience or more with the FBI understood the full connotations of what it meant,” he said, referring to the FBI’s Positive Intelligence Reporting Guide allegedly obtained by Miller for the Soviets. “I saw no indications of a lapse of memory that he did not know what the document was for.”
The jury deliberations, which began calmly, were later marked by occasional angry exchanges as the 10 jurors who had voted to convict Miller repeatedly drew charts and time lines of what they considered to be irrefutable evidence of guilt, Saylor said.
Didn’t Pay Attention
“The rest of us would put up every bit of the evidence, chart it out,” he said. “But the other two didn’t even seem to pay much attention to us.”
Both Loomis and Saylor made it clear that the experience of being a member of the Miller jury was not one they would like to ever have to repeat.
Asked if he would ever agree to sit on another jury, Saylor said: “Not me. I’d plead that I was over 70.”
“I’d slit my wrists.”
THE MILLER JURY
Juror No. 1: Foreman, William T. Loomis, 58, of Lomita, supervisor in electronics division of Northrop Corp.
Juror No. 2: Virginia Hennes of Fountain Valley, nurse studying for master’s degree.
Juror No. 3: Richard Sterner, 26, of Arleta, golf course maintenance and electrical construction worker for the City of Los Angeles.
Juror No. 4: Helene Rosenstein, 56, of Oak Park in Ventura County, school librarian.
Juror No. 5: Frank Clement Saylor, 73, of La Crescenta, retired airline pilot.
Juror No. 6: Bobby R. Rivera, 29, of Anaheim, production supervisor for Ralphs Grocery Co.
Juror No. 7: Gerald Brown, 47, of Manhattan Beach, works at TRW.
Juror No. 8: Virginia Chavez, 43, of Los Angeles, works as disability analyst for Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.
Juror No. 9: Barbara LeBallister of Paso Robles.
Juror No. 10: Frances Gant, 34, of Los Angeles, teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District.
Juror No. 11: Jerry Daly, 32, of Colton, works in audio-visual department at Loma Linda University.
Juror No. 12: Lorayne Ann Carlson, 37, of Upland, quit job as service representative with American Telephone & Telegraph during trial.