Florida terror case jury deadlocked, defense requests mistrial
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 12 December 2007, 21:29 GMT]
Jurors deliberating at the trial of seven South Florida men accused of plotting terrorist attacks are still deadlocked, and the defense lawyers requested a mistrial Monday, a Florida daily said. U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard rejected the motion and read the 12-member jury a formal charge, known as an Allen charge, instructing the panel to continue deliberating.
Allen charge is the set of instructions given to a jury when, after deliberation, it reports that it is unable to decide on a verdict. The purpose of the instruction is to encourage jurors to re-examine their opinions and attempt to reach a unanimous verdict if possible.
"If a substantial majority of your number are in favor of a conviction, those of you who disagree should reconsider whether your doubt is a reasonable one since it appears to make no effective impression upon the minds of the others. On the other hand, if a majority or even a lesser number of you are in favor of an acquittal, the rest of you should ask yourselves again, and most thoughtfully, whether you should accept the weight and sufficiency of evidence which fails to convince your fellow jurors beyond a reasonable doubt," part of the Allen charge says.
Defense attorney Albert Levin said the Allen charge is "unduly coercive."
Conspiracy charge is highly preferred by prosecutors as it can be used to present evidence that might not be normally inadmissible in trials against a single defendant; and since crime of conspiracy does not merge into the final prohibited crime, the effective punishment can be doubled. The conspiracy charge is also used to threaten defendants, thereby coercing them to flip sides, legal sources said.
In the florida case, each defendant, if found guilty of four counts, can be sentenced to 70 years in prison: Material support to terrorists (15 years), Material support to a terrorist organization (15 years), Conspiracy to blow up building (20 years), and Seditious conspiracy (20 years).
On the two informants used in the case to snare the "terrorists," a local paper, Miami New Times, revealed: "One extorted $7,000 from a friend who raped his girlfriend and then, after accepting the money, beat her up and went to jail.
"The other failed an FBI polygraph test while working on an undercover investigation, which one former FBI agent says should have disqualified him from ever working for the government again. Oh, and he was also once charged with roughing up a woman.
"And these are supposed to be the good guys," the paper said.