NEWARK, N. J. — Two jurors in the trial of 20 people acquitted on all charges of being mobsters say the judge's instructions were misunderstood and led the panel to mistakenly find the defendants not guilty on some of the counts.
Helen Bove said she and some other jurors did not say anything when the verdict was read Friday because they expected federal prosecutors to ask for a poll of the jury. Polling the jury is a common practice that can prompt the judge to order further deliberations or declare a mistrial.
The jury that heard the 22-month-long U.S. District Court trial made its decision after 14 hours of deliberations over two days.
'Guilty on Some Counts'
Bove, of Wallington, said: "There were several of us who voted guilty on some counts" against the defendants accused of being part of the Lucchese crime family.
Assistant U.S. Atty. V. Grady O'Malley, the lead prosecutor, said he did not request a poll because "at that point it was apparent to me that they were rejecting the government's case without even looking at the evidence. It would not have made a difference."
But Bove said Sunday it would have made a difference.
Judge Harold A. Ackerman instructed the jury to weigh each of the 77 counts against the defendants and come to a unanimous decision on each.
"Each of your verdicts must be unanimous. It must be 12-0 whether you find each individual guilty or not guilty on each count. I can accept nothing less than a unanimous verdict," the judge said.
But Ackerman's instructions said also: "If you are not unanimous, as to each essential element of the particular offense, you must return a verdict of not guilty as to that particular offense."
Bove said the jury mistakenly took that to mean that, if jurors disagreed on the guilt or innocence of defendants on a particular charge, they were to return a not guilty verdict rather than continue to deliberate until a unanimous decision was reached or they ended up with a hung jury.
"We misread the whole thing," James Tyminski of Fair Lawn said of the instructions. "We are laymen. How are we supposed to understand all of that?"