Jury deliberations in the Gillum trial continue into their fourth day
A 12-member jury will continue trying to reach a verdict in former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum's trial on Thursday.
A social media post on Wednesday threatened to disrupt the progress the jury's made toward delivering a verdict in former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum's corruption trial.
At some point after deliberations began on Friday afternoon, one of the jurors posted to LinkedIn a selfie taken outside the courthouse with a caption about getting released from duty earlier than she had expected. Attorneys read the post to the judge: “I can’t believe they sent us home early for the evening.”
Defense attorneys say the juror also wrote: “We’re heading into week three of this. Need your strength.”
U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor acknowledged that talking about the duration of the trial violates the court’s rules, but decided to let the juror remain on the condition that she stops posting information about the case on social media.
“She’s not going to be excused at this point,” Winsor said. “There’s no indication that she received outside information or shared substantive information about the case.”
Gillum and his business associate Sharon Lettman-Hicks are on trial after pleading not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. Gillum is also charged with lying to the FBI.
Lettman-Hicks’ defense asked for the judge to excuse the juror and replace her with an alternate, while attorneys for Gillum supported Winsor's decision to allow the juror to remain.
“She’s clearly talked generally about jury service, but she’s not talked substantively about it,” Gillum’s attorney David Markus told the judge. “Our inclination is to leave her on, but to bring her out and explain to her not to post any more to social media.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Milligan agreed with Gillum's attorneys and said the prosecution would “lean towards leaving her on” and that the post was “pretty innocuous.”
Lettman-Hicks’ attorneys Alex Morris and Mutaqee Akbar said they were worried that the juror might’ve seen that Morris had viewed her profile because LinkedIn notifies some users when that happens. Morris said he searched her name online because he was concerned about a "pattern" of behavior, though he didn't provide more details.
Judge rules out bringing in an alternate juror
Winsor said if a juror were to be excused he would rule against bringing in an alternate because it would delay the jury's progress. “It would be different if we were a couple hours into it, but we’re not.”
If an alternate juror is used, then the jury must start over with deliberations.
Still defense attorneys say if a juror were to be removed they’d want an alternate to replace them. Otherwise, an 11-member jury would determine the outcome of the case. Markus argued that a jury with fewer than twelve members is "unconstitutional" in this circumstance.
Winsor said he disagreed, and explained that the trial is already “days into deliberations” and the alternate juror would have to start from “square one.”
“I think that’s asking a lot of the other eleven jurors and the overall process.”
The twelve jurors were called into the courtroom about a half hour before they left for the day to receive instructions from the judge again not to discuss the case with anyone and to ignore news reports and social media posts about the trial.
Gillum's defense requests a mistrial
On Tuesday, jurors sent a note to the judge saying they didn't think they'd be able to reach verdict on the fraud charges, attorneys in the case said. That prompted the defense to request a mistrial on those charges and a verdict on the charge of lying to the FBI, which the jurors say they agree on unanimously.
Less than an hour into deliberations on Wednesday morning, jurors requested highlighters, paper clips and hard copies of all the exhibits presented in trial.
Before the court recessed on Wednesday, Markus again requested a mistrial on charges where the jury remains undecided. “We’re getting into day four at the end of the day.”
Milligan asked the judge to hold off on declaring a mistrial at this stage. “It looks like there’s a willingness on their part to go forward,” he said, referring to the jury.
Winsor agreed with the prosecution about where the jury stands in its deliberations and ruled against a mistrial. “The overall length of time doesn’t jump out as anything concerning,” Winsor said. “It’s a complicated case.”
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