Menendez Judge Urges Patience: ‘This Is Not Reality TV’

Updated on
  • Panel was deadlocked after alternate joined deliberations
  • Judge rejects request by senator and doctor for mistrial

Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, left, arrives at federal court in Newark, New Jersey, on Nov. 14, 2017.

Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

The jury at the bribery trial of Senator Robert Menendez failed to reach a verdict during a fifth full day of deliberations after the judge urged them proceed with open minds to break their deadlock.

On Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge William Walls counseled the 12 jurors to “not surrender your honest conviction” as they decide whether prosecutors proved any of the 18 counts against the New Jersey Democrat beyond a reasonable doubt. 

“Take as much time as you need to discuss things,” Walls said in federal court in Newark, New Jersey. “This is not reality TV. This is real life.”

Jurors told Walls in a note on Monday that they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on any of the charges just three hours into a second round of deliberations with a new juror in place of one who had been dismissed for a pre-approved vacation. Walls responded by sending jurors home early and telling them to clear their heads. The panel sent no communications to the court on Tuesday.

Menendez is accused of misusing his office to perform official government acts for his co-defendant, Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, in exchange for bribes in the form of private jet trips and campaign contributions.

After jurors left for the day, defense attorneys renewed a request for a mistrial, citing the deadlocked jury. Walls said he didn’t believe a mistrial was appropriate yet. 

“In all due candor, we’ve only been at it since yesterday,” Walls said.

Defense lawyers also asked him to instruct jurors that a hung jury is just as acceptable an outcome as a conviction or an acquittal. Walls challenged those lawyers to find a legal case supporting that position. The judge also said that by pushing for a mistrial, the defendants were waiving the right to claim they couldn’t be tried twice.

Prosecutors, for their part, asked the judge to remind jurors that they can reach a partial verdict by convicting on some counts but not others.

The case is U.S. v. Menendez, 15-cr-00155, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Newark).

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