Jury deadlocked in Florida terror case
[TamilNet, Friday, 07 December 2007, 17:03 GMT]
A federal jury was reported deadlocked during deliberations to convict seven South Florida men accused of plotting terrorist attacks, and charged with conspiring to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and the FBI headquarters in North Miami Beach, reports from Florida said. U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard had instructed the jurors on the fourth day of deliberations, Thursday, they must continue trying for a unanimous verdict, after receiving written notification from the jury foreman that deliberation has reached an "impasse."
Legal sources said that if the jury fails to come to a unanimous verdict, the Judge has to declare a mistrial. The U.S. Justice department then will have to retry, negotiate plea deals, or drop the case. Earlier, the Judge told the jurors they should reach a verdict before Monday (10 December).
Although there is no prescribed length of time for a jury to continue deliberating, defense lawyers and prosecutors agreed Thursday it was too early for the judge to read an Allen charge telling jurors it is their duty to agree on a verdict if at all possible.
Narseal Batiste, 33, Patrick Abraham, 28, Stanley Phanor, 32, Burson Augustin, 22, Rothschild Augustin, 24, Naudimar Herrera, 23, and Lyglenson Lemorin, 32, were arrested in June 2006 after a lengthy FBI investigation.
According to Jeffrey Harris, a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney not involved in the case, a hung jury usually helps defense lawyers, who can prepare to retry the case knowing all the government's evidence.
Sun-sentinel, a Florida daily said:
"The men, who worked odd jobs for a construction company owned by Batiste, hung out in a dilapidated warehouse in Miami's poverty-stricken Liberty City area. If convicted of the four terrorism-related counts, each faces up to 70 years in prison.
During a two-month trial, prosecutors tried to prove the group belonged to an extremist religious sect that wanted to bring down the U.S. government. The crux of their plan, prosecutors said, was to launch terrorist attacks that would cause devastation "even greater than 9-11."
Defense lawyers insisted their clients were set up by paid government informants and had no intention of following through with any terrorist attacks.
Batiste, the group's reputed leader, testified for roughly eight days, telling jurors he pretended to be a terrorist because he thought one informant would give him $50,000.
In her closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Arango urged jurors to return a guilty verdict that would support pre-emptive action by law enforcement against potential terrorists."