L.A. NOW
Southern California — this just in
March 21, 2013 | 7:15 pm

Jury deliberations in the Bell corruption scandal were “very, very tense,” according to a juror who described a day of rancor that the judge in the case said seemed to her like “all hell has broken loose.”

Judge Kathleen Kennedy declared a mistrial at the end of 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.”

Attorneys for the defendants said the jury deliberations leave many questions.

George Cole’s attorney, Ronald Kaye, said the jury’s behavior suggested “coercion and intimidation” that throws the guilty verdicts into question.

Attorney Shepard Kopp, who represented Teresa Jacobo, said the jury’s conduct is “tremendous legal grounds for motion for a new trial.”

The juror who spoke to The Times described an increasingly divided jury.

“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.

“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 jurors asked to be escorted out of the courthouse by security officers and declined to speak about the case.

Jurors spent 17 days behind closed doors before convicting Cole, Jacobo, Victor Bello, Oscar Hernandez 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.

There were indications early on that the jury was fractured. A few days into deliberations, one juror was removed for alleged misconduct. In the end, deliberations took nearly as long as the trial itself.

Legal experts say the jury’s behavior was extremely unusual.

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