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Mistrial Declared in King Case

By William Gildea
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 18, 1995

NEW YORK, NOV. 17 -- A mistrial was declared this morning in the Don King insurance fraud case after government lawyers withdrew a request to have an appeals court prevent the U.S. district judge from discharging the jurors. U.S. attorney Mary Jo White said this afternoon that the government had "the present intention to seek a prompt retrial."

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence McKenna discharged the jurors shortly before 10 a.m. today. He was preparing to discharge them Thursday when he considered them to be deadlocked, but the prosecution appealed the mistrial ruling and the judge ordered the jurors to return.

McKenna set Nov. 28 for a meeting with attorneys from both sides to determine a new trial date. January reportedly would be the earliest possible beginning for the retrial.

"I will have a press conference," said King, who accepted congratulations from many friends but showed no sign of rejoicing over the hung jury. "I'm going to get my head and thoughts together. I got a lot to say, man."

After being discharged, about half the 12 jurors spoke to reporters and indicated an almost 50-50 split among the 12. King was being tried on nine counts of fraud stemming from charges that he padded by $350,000 an insurance claim that was filed after a 1991 Julio Cesar Chavez bout was canceled. The New York Daily News reported this morning that six jurors wanted to convict King, five favored acquittal and one was undecided.

The article, written by a Daily News court reporter, quoted an alternate juror as saying that she discussed the case on a subway with two members of the jury. It happened Tuesday when the alternate, who was in the courthouse, met up with the two jurors after the shortened workday because of bad weather.

The source close to the prosecution said that had the appeal been successful (it was called "unwinnable" by one source close to the prosecution) the revelation about the jurors discussing the case -- if true -- would have resulted in a mistrial anyway. "You can't put the champagne back into the bottle," he said.

The jury consisted of nine women, three men; there were eight white jurors, two Hispanics, one African American and an Asian American. The woman who was to be excused today because she had a previously planned trip to South Africa this evening was the black juror. She reportedly favored acquittal.

Another woman leaving court today also favored acquittal, and two other women indicated they did, too. "I voted to acquit" because of "lack of evidence," the first one said.

"We felt there was a missing piece," the second woman said. "Several things didn't make the bridge from presumption of innocence to where it was totally clear he did it." She referred to whether King was responsible for a phony insurance claim.

"The government asked us to make leaps," the third woman said. "It came down to a question of reasonable doubt. There was a lack of direct evidence. We thought the contract wasn't real." She apparently meant a specific part of the contract that appeared to be added later, listing the $350,000 in supposedly nonrefundable training fees. King said he never saw the addition, and blamed any wrongdoing on his employees with Don King Productions Inc.

King, 64, faced a maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine on each of the nine charges. McKenna said Thursday that he was going to discharge the jury based on its note to him stating that "a majority" had "reached the conclusion that we are irretrievably deadlocked."

© 1995 The Washington Post Company

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