Five days after D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert H. Campbell was convicted of accepting an illegal gift from a local construction firm, a juror in the case confessed to a federal judge that she was the lone holdout for acquittal and was fearful that she had agreed under pressure to vote with the majority for a guilty verdict.
The juror, Joanne Sampson, at one point wept as she told Judge Thomas A. Flannery in a private meeting on March 20 that on the fourth and final day of jury deliberations, she began to feel intimidated by other jurors who were eager to finish the case and go home. "Everybody's nerves were shot," Sampson told Flannery, according to a transcript of their discussion released yesterday.
Finally, Sampson said, she agreed that if all the jurors reached a consensus on the charge "my vote had to go along that way if I was in the minority . . . and that's how they came up with the verdict." Now, Sampson said, she "felt guilty" about how the jury had reached its decision.
The transcript released yesterday provided an unusual, inside look at the strains imposed on the jury as it struggled, after a seven-week trial, to reach a decision on bribery, conspiracy and racketerring charges against the former judge, Larry A. Campbell (no relation to the judge), the general manager of Escavation Construction Inc., and the firm itself.
Sampson told Flannery that she was "not unhappy" with the consensus vote that was finally announced in the court. The jury found Campbell guilty of accepting a gift from the firm -- the move of his house goods -- and convicted Larry Campbell and the firm of offering the illegal favor. All three were acquitted of the more serious bribery and conspiracy charges.
But Sampson also told Flannery she wanted to let him know that she felt "this uneasiness . . ." about what had happened in the jury room.
The jury was sequestered in a local hotel on the third day of deliberations, after newspaper reports in which former judge Campbell said he was the victim of a government "vendetta."
Flannery told Sampson that there was nothing improper with the jury reaching a consensus verdict.
"That's the way the jury system works," Flannery told Sampson.
"It's shocking," Sampson replied, according to the transcript.
In the past, courts have rarely overturned verdicts reached by jury consensus, even if individual jurors change their minds after a decision has been announced.
The transcript of Flannery's discussion with Sampson was made public after Flannery also unsealed a defense motion for a new trial based on what Sampson reportedly told a close friend about the case during a three-hour telephone call immediately after the verdict was announced on March 15.
In court papers, the defense contended that Sampson's friend told them that Sampson had abstained from voting on the single guilty verdict, which by law must be unanimous. By court rules, lawyers for both the prosecution and defense are prohibited from talking to jurors after a verdict is returned. Last week, the defense asked Flannery to question jurors in the cawe about the statements made about Sampson. When the motion was filed, the defense knew that Flannery had met with Sampson but the lawyers on both sides were unaware of the content of the discussion until yesterday.
Flannery has not yet ruled on the defense motion and has allowed time for the government to respond to the request. But Flannery said in court yesterday that based on his meeting with the juror, he found nothing improper about the jury's verdict.
Sampson told Flannery that she told her fellow jurors that she could "buy into" a unanimous guilty verdict on the illegal gift charge against all three defendants. But, she added, "there was a whole lot of gray . . ." -- uncertainty in her mind. It was at that point, later in deliberations, that Sampson agreed to go along with whatever the other jurors decided on that count.
". . . I don't have any reservations about it," Sampson told Flannery. "But it was just . . . the way that I did it." Sampson told Flannery her jury experience was "traumatic," and that she simply had to talk with someone about it. After the 17-minute conversation, Sampson told Flannery she felt better.