SAN DIEGO — In a ruling hailed by prosecutors but denounced by the defense, Superior Court Judge William L. Todd Jr. on Wednesday said that he will not permit jurors to testify at a hearing next week on Mayor Roger Hedgecock's motion for a new trial.
Todd ruled that only jurors' sworn statements, not their testimony, will be allowed at next Monday's hearing on jury-tampering allegations that are the basis of Hedgecock's attorneys' request that the mayor's 13-count felony conviction be reversed.
However, while the judge's ruling will dramatically limit the scope of the hearing, it apparently leaves open the possibility that court bailiffs--one of whom allegedly tampered with the jury during its deliberations--can testify.
"The hearing will be conducted upon the declarations of the 12 trial jurors and whatever other evidence is submitted by the parties at the time of the hearing," Todd said in his two-page order. "The court will not hear testimony from any of the trial jurors."
Hedgecock attorney Oscar Goodman, who argues that the jurors' testimony, not simply their sworn declarations, is necessary in order to "see the full picture" surrounding the jury-tampering allegations, said that he was "amazed and very disappointed" by Todd's decision.
"This darkens the pall . . . over the hearing," said Goodman, who plans to ask the 4th District Court of Appeal to remove Todd from the case this week. "I'm absolutely astounded that the system isn't permitting the truth to come out. This ruling will prevent all of the witnesses from telling everything they know and providing the full truth about these very serious charges. I'm shocked that things like this are happening in our legal system."
However, Steve Casey, a spokesman for Dist. Atty. Edwin Miller Jr., praised Todd's decision, and took issue with Goodman's contention that Todd's ban on jurors' testimony could make it more difficult to ascertain the facts about the jury-tampering charges. Miller had said earlier that prosecutors would oppose any testimony from jurors at the hearing, adding that the sworn statments would be "sufficient."
Not Hearing's Intent
"I suppose you'd get a fuller picture if you decided to stretch the hearing out for a few days and take testimony from everyone in San Diego," Casey said. "But new trial motions are not intended to be vehicles by which you can relitigate the entire case. The (jurors') statements tell what they know. There's no need to drag them back into court and further harass them."
Two jurors allege that bailiff Al Burroughs Jr. tampered with Hedgecock's jury during its 6 1/2 days of deliberations.
If Hedgecock loses his request for a new trial at Monday's hearing, he could be ousted from office two days later, when Todd is scheduled to sentence Hedgecock on his conviction on 13 conspiracy and perjury counts stemming from allegedly illegal contributions to his 1983 mayoral campaign. The mayor faces a maximum sentence of eight years' imprisonment.