Amid a flurry of cryptic and accusatory notes from the jury, Judge Kathleen Kennedy declared a mistrial Thursday on the remaining undecided charges in the Bell corruption trial.

City Council Members Found Guilty Of Corruption In Poor Los Angeles County City
Five former Bell City Council members were found guilty of stealing public money by paying themselves extraordinary salaries in one of Los Angeles County’s poorest cities. (Irfan Khan – Pool/Getty Images)

“It seems to me all hell has broken loose,” Kennedy said on Thursday according to The Los Angeles Times. “I’m getting the sense that the lines of communication have broken down between each and every one of you.”

The jury said it could not come to a decision on charges relating to the council members’ payments for serving on the Community Housing and Surplus Property authorities.

On Wednesday the jury convicted five of the six defendants on felony charges of misappropriation of public funds relating to payments they received for serving on the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee.

Prosecutors had accused the “Bell Six” of taking six-figure salaries in exchange for minimal work serving on a handful of local boards that rarely met.

Jury deliberations apparently broke down irreparably minutes before the judge declared a mistrial, according to The Los Angeles Times:

“The jury sent two notes suggesting that talks were breaking down.

‘I respectfully ask if you could please remind the jury to remain respectful and not to make false accusations and insults to one another,’ one note said.

A second note from a different juror suggested that they were deadlocked on the charges involving the Surplus Property Authority.

The jury announced on Wednesday that it had reached a verdict on 10 charges Wednesday morning but was deadlocked on the remaining 10 charges, according to the county clerk at the Superior Court of Los Angeles. The judge asked the jury to resume deliberating on the remaining charges.

The  jury returned from lunch Wednesday to deliberate on the remaining charges. That’s when jury communications to the judge began hinting of drama behind the closed doors, The Los Angeles Times reported:

“In a cryptic note, Juror No. 7 told Kennedy he had misgivings about the deliberations, saying he ‘questioned myself on information that had me on a [doubt] of thing [sic] that were not presented properly.'”

“In another note, Juror No. 10 said that she believes the jury is ‘getting away from your instructions’ and possibly misunderstanding a law on ‘several levels.'”

At one point, a juror asked to be allowed to reconsider the guilty verdicts already handed down, saying “due to the pressure and stress of the deliberation process,” the jury may have given an improper guilty verdict. Kennedy declined.

This all comes on the heels of a female juror being dismissed for alleged misconduct just a few days into deliberations.

Defense attorneys said they plan to move for a new trial on the convictions the jury made earlier, based on possible jury misconduct in those convictions, Huffington Post reported.

Author

Rachael Bale

Rachael Bale is researcher for The Center for Investigative Reporting and occasional contributor to KQED News and The California Report. A California native, she has a bachelor's degree in political science from Reed College and a master's degree in journalism from American University.

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