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Bailiff's Bias in Hedgecock Trial Disclosed

February 02, 1992|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — By the time former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock's second trial on political corruption charges went to the jury, the bailiff assigned to attend jurors during their deliberations let it be known that he had already made up his own mind.

Hedgecock, bailiff Al Burroughs said, was guilty.

Burroughs then plied jurors with liquor. He reminded them that it was expensive to keep them secluded, so costly that they were expected to "do a good job." And, against all rules, he partied with the jurors and told them stories suggesting that other juries had let minor issues keep them from a verdict.

Burroughs admitted all this and more in an interview with state prosecutors shortly after the close of the 1985 trial. His comments stayed secret for five years. Then Hedgecock and his lawyers finally got the transcripts.

The documents, which were never made public, lend substance to the defense claim on appeal that there had been jury tampering. They also led to a plea bargain that quickly settled the case. That plea bargain cleared Hedgecock's record and left him free to run for mayor again, something he says he might do. Had the felony conviction stood, it would have barred him from public office.

"If I do run again, all these old bones (allegations) will be drug around the yard by my opponents," Hedgecock said in an interview last week. "People ought to know that (Burroughs') statements represent a complete repudiation of the final, coerced judgment of the jury."

The material, obtained by The Times, underscores why Hedgecock won such a favorable deal in one of San Diego's most riveting cases. It also sheds light on the tactics state prosecutors used in the politically charged case.

The conviction forced Hedgecock from office. It could have led to a year in jail. Yet state prosecutors, who held evidence that backed Hedgecock's claim of tampering, didn't share it with the defense or even local prosecutors for five years, until forced to by the state Supreme Court.

The material "tend(s) to show what I was saying all along, beginning seven years ago, that this was not a fair trial and the truth did not come out," Hedgecock said.

The transcripts fill hundreds of pages with the word-by-word interviews state prosecutors conducted with Burroughs and all 12 jurors days after Hedgecock was convicted.

The case ended Dec. 31, 1990, after six years of litigation and two trials.

Hedgecock was convicted Oct. 9, 1985, on felony conspiracy and perjury charges stemming from illegal contributions to his 1983 mayoral campaign from the now-defunct La Jolla investment firm J. David & Co. The first trial, eight months before, ended with the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 for conviction.

In September, 1990, the California Supreme Court threw out the 12 perjury convictions and set aside the remaining conspiracy charge, pending a hearing on Hedgecock's claim for a new trial, which was based on allegations of jury tampering.

The hearing never took place. The defense obtained the transcripts in October, 1990. The next month, the deal was struck.

Hedgecock accepted a conviction on a single felony charge in return for no jail sentence and no retrial. The deal also called for a judge to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor and dismiss the case, which is precisely what happened.

What's curious is why it took so long to get to the end.

Within days of the Oct. 9 guilty verdict, two of the 12 jurors in Hedgecock's case alleged in sworn statements that Burroughs provided jurors with alcohol, told them stories, guided deliberations and pressured the jury to reach a quick verdict.

Under court rules, anything a bailiff says or does that could influence a verdict is "serious misconduct" and grounds for reversal.

A bailiff is a court officer who is charged with maintaining order in the courtroom, seeing to the needs of jurors and making sure that deliberations are following the judge's orders. When a jury is sequestered, the bailiff is the jury's only link to the outside.

The bailiff is supposed to limit conversations with jurors to the bare essentials. But the jurors' affidavits complained that Burroughs broke the rules. The affidavits provided the basis of Hedgecock's claim on appeal of jury tampering.

On Nov. 1, 1985, Burroughs filed his own affidavit, denying wrongdoing. That same day, he sat down with state prosecutors for a 97-minute interview, according to the transcripts.

In the interview, Burroughs said, "I, in my mind, made up the second or third day that, that he was guilty, and I looked at those girls so long to come around to that."

"Those girls" apparently is a reference to three women who ended up being holdout jurors. The juror interviews reveal the panel was split early on, often 6 to 6, on many of the counts.

Burroughs' comment is particularly telling because it shows he somehow knew who the holdouts were, which he should not have known.

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