JUDGE GERHARD A. GESELL'S grant a new trial to Joseph A. Yeldell and Dominic F. Antonelli Jr. resolved nothing because it had nothing to do with the merits of the case. The two men are charged with bribery and conspiracy. Those charges stand, and, presumably, another long and costly trial will be needed to resolve them. That is an expensive price to pay because a juror failed to answer truthfully two questions put to her before the trial began. But it is the kind of price paid every once in a while for a judicial system that rests as heavily as ours does on the integrity of its jurors.
In this case, the juror failed to reveal under routine questioning that she had once had an account at Madison National Bank and that her father had worked for a parking business. The questions seem innocuous on their face. But the bank made the loan that was said to be part of the conspiracy, and Mr. Antonelli is active in both the bank's activities and parking business. His lawyers argued that the juror's failure to reveal her ties denied them an opportunity to have her removed from the jury before the trial began.
It seems unlikely to us given the way the trial and the jury proceedings went that her failure to provide that information had anything to do with the guilty verdict the jury returned. But you never know. And that is why Judge Gesell felt compelled to grant a new trial. If the defense had removed her from the jury, it is at least arguable that the outcome might have been different. And it is also not unreasonable to suppose that her lack of candor on these questions might have reflected a lack of candor on other, more important questions. While those are extremely "iffy" possibilities, defendants get the benefit of every "if" wheu8n the integrity of a jury is at stake.
The benefit in this case is a real one. When Mr. Yeldell and Mr. Antonelli are tried again, their lawyers will know the strengths and weaknesses of the government's case against them and the weaknesses of the defense they presented the first time around. The prosecutors, of course, will have the same advantage, but in most complicated cases - and this one surely is complicated - the defense usually gains more knowledge than does the prosecution during the trial.
Partly for these reasons but mainly because a new trial wipes out the weeks of effort that went into the first one, judges are reluctant to take the step Judge Gesell found necessary. But they do it with some regularity - and rightly so - when the defense stumbles upon a fact, as it did in this case that puts the integrity of a juror in doubt.