Charles Ng, facing the death penalty for 11 murders, may have contacted one of the jurors weighing his fate to tell her she was "very nice," court transcripts released Tuesday showed.
But the judge in the case decided he could not establish that Ng, 38, was the man named "Charles" who called the shaken juror at home last week, and let the case proceed.
The nine-woman, three-man jury recommended Monday that the former U.S. Marine be put to death for a 1980s sex-and-torture murder rampage that has become the longest and costliest criminal prosecution in California history.
According to transcripts of a hearing held in the chambers of Orange County Superior Court Judge John Ryan, the juror sought out a bailiff to report that she had been called at home by a man identifying himself as "Charles."
She said the man repeatedly asked if she was Juror 12, referring to her seat number in the jury box. According to the transcript, she told the judge:
"And then I just said, 'Is this Charles Ng?' And he said, 'Oh, I am sorry. I just wanted to tell you, you are very nice.' And I just said, 'Well, I can't, you know. . . . How did you get my number? How did you get hold of me?' "
She said the caller told her that a friend had helped him get the number. "I said, 'You can't call me,' and I hung up and called [the bailiff] and that was it."
The woman said she could not say whether the voice resembled that of Ng.
Ryan, who observed that the juror was somewhat shaken by the conversation, concluded that he could not establish that Ng made the call.
He also told the lawyers that, if Ng made the call, he did not want the defendant's misconduct to force a mistrial, and so would let deliberations continue.
The judge then told the juror to disregard the event and to refrain from discussing it with other jurors. He told the lawyers that he had ordered Ng's access to telephones cut off until deliberations were complete.
Ng was convicted Feb. 24 of killing six men, three women and two baby boys with alleged accomplice Leonard Lake after luring them to a remote cabin in Northern California's Gold Rush country.
Lake, a fugitive survivalist, swallowed a cyanide pill while in police custody and died three days later.