Football Antitrust Jury Continues Deliberations

Times Staff Writer

The jury conducted another 10 hours of deliberations in the United States Football League's $1.69-billion antitrust suit against the National Football League without returning a verdict Monday, making this, if nothing else, the longest-running football weekend in history.

Altogether, the six jurors are up to hour 25 in this landmark case, and not showing much sign of reaching a verdict. In their only request of U.S. District Judge Peter K. Leisure, the jurors asked for clarification on the instructions they received Thursday. They were having difficulty interpreting the definition of the relevant markets and submarkets that football plays to.

In fact, almost everybody does. The judge's instructions ran to 155 pages, and his interrogatories, or questions used to establish a verdict, ran another 30. The chilling aspect of their request was that the supplemental instructions referred to questions 1 through 9 on the 61-question verdict sheet.

In the end, or somewhere near it, Judge Leisure told them they could pretty much interpret it any way they wanted. If they wanted to broaden the market, say from network TV as discussed in the trial to cable TV, they could do so.

Of course, attorneys from both sides insisted the mere fact of the question, not to mention the clarification, signaled victory. Interpreting these requests has become an important activity in an expectant courtroom. However, it has also become something like reading tea leaves.

Still, NFL co-counsel Frank Rothman was probably closest to the truth when he said: "It is clear that there are factions (within the jury). Anyone who's looking can see that. One side hears what he wants to hear, the other side hears what he wants to hear."

So the jurors, as they have several times already, came to the judge to iron it out.

If it appears that the jurors are locked in a titanic struggle, be assured that Judge Leisure is interested in having it resolved quickly. Monday he kept the jurors sequestered until 6:45, when he allowed them a 90-minute dinner break. Then they returned for 45 minutes of deliberation.

"I think," Rothman said kindly, "he is trying to impress them with the notion of a quick verdict."

That much the assemblage of counsel could agree on. But little else. Rothman thought they'd reach a verdict by the end of the week. USFL attorney Harvey Myerson, meanwhile, thought it might come by late today.

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