An alternate juror in the bribery trial of former D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert H. Campbell was excused from the case Tuesday after she sent a note to the judge that said, in part that the trial "was getting on my nerves" and appeared to her to be a "joke."
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Flannery received the note from the juror, identified as Edna Vincent, shortly before the defense was to resume presentation of its evidence Tuesday afternoon, according to available court records.
Flannery, according to the court record, reported that the juror's note said, "I had asked to be excused from the case before. I was getting on my nerves. I am a very serious person, and this trial appears to be a joke to me. Mrs. Vincent."
The partial court record indicates that Flannery then privately questioned the juror about the note. That portion of the court record has been sealed from public inspection.
Flannery denied a request yesterday from a Washington Post reporter that the transcript of the proceeding be made available. He did so after defense lawyers in the case asked that it remain sealed. The government did not object to the request.
In open court, out of the earshot of the remaining jurors, Flannery explained that the juror was excused after she indicated that she had expressed her opinion about certain testimony in the case to another person. Flannery said he did not want other jurors in the case to become aware of those statements or read them in the newspaper. The jury, which has heard almost six weeks of evidence in the case, is not sequestered. For those reasons, Flannery said, he would keep the record of the discussion sealed.
According to the available court record, Flannery simply told the remaining jurors that the alternate had been excused "for personal reasons." A jury of eight women and four men is hearing the evidence in the Campbell case. There are now five, instead of six, alternate jurors. Alternate jurors hear all the evidence in a case but ultimately join in deliberations only if one of the regular jurors is excused from the case for some reasons, such as illness.
In the portion of the court record that was available, Flannery said that a deputy U.S. marshal had informed him Monday that a juror wanted to be excused "and I told the marshal to tell her to write me a note."
The defense began presentation of its evidence Monday. The last witness called to testify that day was former D.C. Superior Court Judge Charles W. Halleck. Three other witnesses for the defense Monday were a former court employe, a friend of former judge Campbell and U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene, former chief judge of the Superior Court.
Most of Halleck's testimony consisted of his opinions about enforcement of the city's overweight truck regulations, which are at the center of the Campbell case. Campbell is charged with accepting $10,000 in cash, goods and services in exchange for his favorable treatment of such tickets issued to a Bladensburg construction firm.
While Halleck was under cross-examination by assistant U.S. Attorney Carol E. Bruce, there were frequent instances when his demeanor and comments from the witness stand prompted muffled laughter and smiles from lawyers and observers in the courtroom. Flannery occasionally had to cut off Halleck's testimony when he tried to tell the prosecutor how to ask her questions or what to ask him.
Halleck, whose colorful and controversial career as a judge ended after 12 years in 1977, grabbed the arm of Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Hume in a friendly gesture as he left the courtroom.
In addition to former judge Campbell, Larry A. Campbell (no relation to the judge), the general manager of Excavation Construction Inc., and the firm itself are all on trial on bribery conspiracy and racketeering charges.