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Quattrone Jurors Say They're at Impasse

The judge orders them to return to court today but raises the possibility of a mistrial in a meeting with lawyers.

October 24, 2003|Walter Hamilton | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — The jurors in Frank Quattrone's criminal trial told the judge for a second time Thursday that they had reached an impasse, further raising the possibility that the case will end in a mistrial.

Nonetheless, U.S. District Judge Richard Owen ordered the jurors to return to court this morning.

The jury first notified Owen in a note last Friday that they were in substantial disagreement about whether the former Silicon Valley banker obstructed government investigations, and their latest note indicated that their divergent opinions may have hardened.

"The jury's consensus is that we will not be able to reach a unanimous vote on any of the three counts" against Quattrone, they told Owen.

Quattrone, 48, is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of witness tampering. Prosecutors allege that a December 2000 e-mail Quattrone wrote at his former firm, Credit Suisse First Boston, was an attempt to have his staff destroy documents sought in government probes of initial public stock offerings.

Thursday's note came one day after Owen gave the jurors a directive known as an Allen charge encouraging them to reach a verdict. An Allen charge prods jurors to try harder to reach agreement, suggesting that the failure to do so would simply result in a second trial in which another jury would wrestle with the same issues.

It is unclear whether Owen will give the jurors further instructions this morning in a final bid to coax a verdict from them.

"It would appear that a mistrial is all but certain," said Jeffrey Eglash, a partner at Howrey Simon Arnold & White in Los Angeles. "For the judge to order further deliberations at this point runs a very great risk that the appellate court would overturn any conviction that might result because any order to deliberate further would probably be viewed as unduly coercive."

Many experts view the government's case as tough to win and believe that a mistrial would be a victory for the defense.

In a private meeting with lawyers for both sides, Owen raised the possibility of a mistrial.

"Do you want me to call them in now and say, 'Are you telling me that you are hopelessly deadlocked?' And I take it at that point I'm authorized to grant a mistrial?" Owen asked, according to a transcript of the meeting.

Quattrone's lawyer, John Keker, renewed an earlier request for a mistrial, but lead prosecutor Steven Peikin countered that a verdict still was possible because the jurors "haven't used the word 'deadlocked.' "

Owen indicated that he might ask the jurors if they could agree eventually.

"They don't say, 'We're hopelessly deadlocked,' and that's the kind of language you've got to have" to declare a mistrial, Owen told the lawyers.

If a mistrial were declared, prosecutors would have to decide whether to retry the case or drop the charges against Quattrone.

Despite the two notes, the jurors have deliberated for only a little more than four days. The deliberations began last week but were suspended for the first two days of this week while one juror's wife gave birth.

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