The jurors in the political corruption trial of Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel were deadlocked in disagreement today over the guilt or innocence of all six defendants despite 56 hours of deliberation.
The jurors inability to agree on whether or not a criminal scheme had taken place raised the possibility that the trial would end with a hung jury and that the governor and his codefendants might have to be tried a third time. Their first trial held here last year, ended in a mistrial following two jury tampering attempts.
After the jury informed him last night of its inability to agree on a verdict, a determined U.S. District Judge Robert L. Taylor, pounding his fist and waving his arms at a 9 a.m. court session today, ordered the jurors to try again to resolve their differences and reach a unanimous verdict.
But after the jurors met for another four hours, they stopped deliberating at 1 p.m. when a woman juror, who was not identified by court officials, became ill. After being examined by a doctor who concluded she was not seriously ill, she was sent back to the jurors' motel to rest for the afternoon and evening. The jury is expected to resume deliberations this morning.
A hung jury would leave unanswered the question of whether Mandel, whose term as governor does not end until January, 1979, has committed the U.S. fraud and racketeering crimes with which he and his five friends have been charged.
It would also leave federal prosecutors here with the decision of whether to seek a third trial for Mandel, businessmen Irvin Kovens, W. Dale Hess, Harry W. Rodgers III, and his brother William A. Rodgers, and lawyer Ernest N. Cory Jr. Justice Department sources said today that it is very rare to try a defendant three times on the some charges.
The jury deadlock was announced today in a note from the foreman to the judge almost one week to the minute after the jury went out to begin deliberation following 10 weeks of testimony.
Defendants called it the "first good news," although Mandel said he hoped for complete "vindication." Jeanne Mandel, the governor's wife, began laughing and kissing codefendants when she heard of the deadlock.
The note was the second of two messages from the jury during the past two days - messages that have bounced participants in this trial from puzzlement to gloom to elation.
On Tuesday, four questions from the jury to the judge seemed to convince defense lawyers that all of the defendants would be convicted on at least one count.
Today, following the jury's message that it was deadlocked, conflicting reports emerged from the courthouse about how the jury was voting in its secret and carefully guarded sessions. WJLA-TV in Washington said "sources in a position to know" said the jury was voting 11 to 1 for acquittal. Other sources said the jurors were aligned 9-to-3 for a conviction.
"If you react to all that you hear, you'd go crazy," Mandel said in an interview tonight.
The deadlock sounded especially serious because the jurors said they could not decide whether a fraudulent scheme had been plotted by the codefendants. That is the underpining of the federal indictment.
The 23 counts of mail fraud and antiracketeering violations rest on the allegations that the governor consciously decided to promote legislation to favor Marlboro Race Track because that track was secretly owned by his friends and codefendants and, in return for allegedly abusing his office taking a part in this corrupt scheme the governor received about $450,000 worth of favors and benefits.
Judge Taylor instructed the jurors this morning after reading to attorneys and defendants the one paragraph note sent him by the jury foreman last night.
". . . We are unable to come to a unanimous decision as to the existence of a scheme to defraud. Therefore, we are also unabale to reach a unanimous verdict on the guilt or innocence on any of the charges on any of the defendants in this case," the handwritten message from foreman Howard Davis said.
The jurors were then called into the courtroom. With expressionless but exhausted faces they listened to Judge Taylor as he read what attorneys called a modified version of the "Allen charge" - an instruction to encourage jurors in the minority to listen more carefully to those in the majority.
"Each juror who finds himself to be in the minority should reconsider his views in the light of the opinion of the majority," Judge Taylor admonished. "Conversely, each juror who finds himself or herself in the majority should give equal consideration to the views of the minority . . . This case is an important one and its presentation to you has involved expense and expenditure of time by both the government and the defendants."
Although the defendants were relieved that the jurors had yet to agree that a five-year-long corrupt scheme had existed, they also were concerned that in "seven days they haven't come up with one answer," in the words of one of them.
"It's been a hard week and a terrible strain," said Mandel, "but we're still hoping there'll be complete vindication."
"How long can this go on?" asked William A. Rodgers over coffee after this morning's court hearing. Last night, he said, his children and those of his brother and codefendant Harry Rodgers have played croquet by candle light - "the kids put candles on the wickets" - in order to keep from going crazy with nothing to do.
Judge Taylor had told the defendants and their attorneys today that "I'm not going to sit here, after we have spent all this time, without exhausting every effort, every legitimate effort to get a verdict . . . You lawyers want a verdict just as badly as (I do)."
"I think we are entitled to a verdict in this case," he told the lawyers after the jury had left the courtroom. "I think all people who are interested are entitled to a verdict, I don't hesitate to say that."
Taylor said he might make even stronger admonitions to the jury if they did not come up with a verdict.
Taylor, a folksy jurist from Tennesee told the lawyers that "In Knoxville, sometimes I'll line them (jurors) up and ask them how they stand."
"There is grave danger with respect to the potential for coercion," responded Mandel's lawyer, Arnold M. Weiner.
"Now, that's what I'm trying to stay away from," responded Taylor."
Political leaders from both parties generally agreed that a hung jury would not diminish Mandel's role in Democratic Party affairs or his ability to run the government and affect legislation.
"If there's a hung jury and no third trial, Mandel and his codefendants would be judged innocent under our system," observed State Sen. Roy N. Staten (D-Baltimore County), a close Mandel ally and chairman of the state Democratic Party. "They (prosecutors) have never tied anything down yet," he added.
"He still swings a lot of weight," David Forward, outgoing chairman of Maryland's Republican Party said of Mandel. "The Democratic regulars are still going to listen to him. Even if he's convicted, most people think, he'll have considerable political clout within the Democratic Party."
"I bet if there is a hung jury, when Mandel brings in the state-of-the-state message, he'll receive the biggest standing ovation in state history," said Del. Paul E. Weisengoff (D-Baltimore City), who is chairman of the city's House of Delegates delegation. "The vast majority of legislators think he's been," victimized.
"Ninety-five percent of the people I'm associated with believe the governor has been mistreated already," said William L. (Little Willie) Adams, the West Baltimore political boss and longtime Mandel ally. "I don't think a hung jury could hurt him politically. Whomever he supported as governor would have a good chance of being governor."
In Annapolis, acting Gov. Blair Lee III was uncharacteristically mum on the hung jury issue. He refused to discuss his views with reporters, saying any comment would be "graceless."
The view is widely held among political professionals in the state that a hung jury would be the worst possible result of the trial for Lee who's an announced a candidate to succeed Mandel as governor in the 1978 election.
If Mandel were convicted, Lee would become governor now, thrusting him into a powerful political role and the public attention that would have given him the opportunity to both campaign for election next year and disassociate himself completely from Mandel.
A hung jury would not resolve the question of Mandel's guilt or innocence and could transfer the stigma of corruption of Lee, one Democratic state senator noted.
"Blair doesn't know if it's fish or fowl," observed State Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Prince George's County). "It (a hung jury) will give a lot of ammunition to his opponent."
When the jurors left the courthouse at 3 p.m. this afternoon they did so in silence, apparently leaving no word on the progress of their renewed deliberations. Although there were rumors and speculation about the time it would take the jurors to decide whether a scheme existed, there was no question in anyones mind that without that determination there would be no verdict.