In the course of their deliberation thus far in the James Sexton obstruction of justice trial, the jury sent Judge Percy Anderson four notes. If two of those notes are any guide, then the panel of five women and seven men could very well wind-up in an irrevocable deadlock.
Actually all of the notes are an intriguing peek into this jury’s process, so here they are, one by one.
The jury began deliberating just before 11 a.m. Tuesday and went home around 5 p.m.that first day. During their afternoon deliberation they sent Judge Anderson their first note, which was a request to hear a “read back” of the testimony defendant Sexton had given to the grand jury, testimony in which he freely admits that he and his team partners were instructed to keep FBI informant Anthony Brown away from the FBI, and that they used all manner of “smoke and mirrors” to do so.
Sexton’s cheerful grand jury testimony is a linchpin of the prosecution’s case against him. Thus the fact that the jury wanted it read back, might suggest that they were leaning toward a guilty verdict.
On the other hand, the tone of the testimony is that of a fully cooperating witness, not some sort of tortured or inadvertent confession. Thus it also could possibly fit a part of the defense’s theory of the case, namely that Sexton had cooperated for more than a year with the FBI, consenting to 37 interviews, and doing all he could to help the feds. For his trouble, he got indicted and now finds himself fighting to stay out of prison, whereas those higher-ups who had issued the orders that were now being labeled as conspiracy to obstruct of justice—namely the sheriff and undersheriff—are walking around, perfectly indictment free.
Whatever the reason for the jurors’ interest in another go-round with Sexton’s testimony, they left for home an hour after the reading, and They were back in the court building ready to deliberate at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning
Wednesday’s first note came at 9:30 a.m. The jury wanted a readback of part of part of Leah Marx’s testimony that pertained to threats James had been receiving.
It was merely a short exchange during her testimony, but the fact that they have asked for it seemed telling.
The testimony pertains to the time when Marx set up the first meeting with Sexton, who had been reluctant to meet with her. He had, however, been already been talking for a while to another LA special agent named Patrick Hampel, whom he considered a friend.
Marx said she passed a message to Sexton through Hampel, that “there were credible threats against him and his life might be in danger.”
(The threats had to do with another LASD case, in which Sexton and his partner, Mike Rathbun, had blown the whistle on some corruption elsewhere in the sheriff’s department. The two got death threats as a consequence.)
Just before the noon hour, the jury sent a new note, this one of a different character. It read:
We wish to inform the judge. We can not, have not, and will not reach a unanimous verdict in this case.
Those in the audience who had scurried into the courtroom for the reading of the note, looked at each other. A hung jury?
The prosecution team looked quietly stricken. Judge Percy Anderson waggled his head as he has a habit of doing when contemplating some act or person in his court that he deems vexing.
“I’m included to bring them out,” said Anderson, “and tell them, ‘I’ve read your note. But it’s a little soon to reach this point. I’m inclined to let you return to the jury room to deliberate. “
The defense knew it was losing battle to ask for a mistrial at this point, but he asked for one anyway. Predictably Anderson turned O’Brien down.
When they jury was ushered into their box, Anderson sweetened the news with a little grandfatherly persuasion.
“We’re going to take you out to lunch, hopefully the fresh air will help clear your minds. Then we ask that you resume your deliberations.” Anderson stopped just short of advising the jury panel that they would surely do better once they’d raised their collective blood sugars.
The jury returned from lunch at 2 pm. By 2:30 there is a new note.
This time, Anderton did not read the text of the note aloud, but instead called for a sidebar. There was argument at the sidebar, mostly it appeared, coming from the defense.
The jury was brought into the courtroom.
“Ladies and gentleman, we received your note…” This time Judge Anderson instructed the jury to go home for the rest of the day and “sleep on it.”
The jury will return to resume deliberation at 8 am Thursday….
Obviously, we’ll let you know when we know. So watch this space……