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Evidence of Jury Tampering in Hedgecock Case Disclosed : Courts: Transcripts that could have been used in appeal by ex-San Diego mayor stayed secret for five years.

February 02, 1992|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

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

Hedgecock, the bailiff said, was guilty.

Bailiff Al Burroughs then plied jurors with liquor. He reminded jurors 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 1985 trial ended. His comments stayed secret for five years. Then Hedgecock and his lawyers finally got the transcripts.

The transcripts, which were never made public, lend substance to the defense claim on appeal that there had been jury tampering and 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, now a San Diego radio and television talk show host, said in an interview. "People ought to know that these statements (in the transcripts) represent a complete repudiation of the final, coerced judgment of the jury."

The material, obtained by The Times, also illuminates why Hedgecock won such a favorable deal in one of this city's most riveting cases.

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, did not share it with the defense or prosecutors for five years, until forced to do so by the state Supreme Court.

Hedgecock said the materials "tend 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."

The transcripts fill hundreds of pages with 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, had 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 request for a new trial, based on jury tampering allegations.

The hearing never happened. The defense obtained the transcripts in October, 1990, and the next month the deal was struck. The deal also called for a judge to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor and dismiss the case, which is what happened.

What is curious is why it took so long to wrap up.

Within days of the 1985 guilty verdict, two of the 12 jurors alleged in sworn statements that Burroughs provided liquor, told stories, guided jurors' deliberations and pressured them 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 official charged with maintaining order in the courtroom, seeing to the needs of jurors and making sure that jury deliberations follow 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" is a reference to three women who ended up being the holdout jurors. The juror interviews reveal that 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.

In the 1985 interview, Burroughs did not elaborate on what he meant.

He declined last week to comment on the transcript. "If you have the transcript, you don't need to ask me anything," Burroughs, still a bailiff, said by phone.

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