The federal court jury engaged in marathon deliberations over the fraud and conspiracy case against Mary Treadwell said yesterday it was "making some progress toward a verdict," but for the 15th day it failed to reach a decision.
By late last night, when the jurors recessed yet again, they had spent a total of 118 hours considering the complex case, an increasingly lengthy record for deliberations in a federal court case here.
U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn ordered the jury of eight women and four men to resume their considerations at 9 a.m. today.
The jurors gave the brief assessment of the status of their deliberations at midafternoon, after Penn asked them for a report.
Penn specifically told the jurors that they "must not indicate how the jury stands numerically or otherwise on the question of the guilt or innocence" of Treadwell and "give no details as to your deliberations."
Within half an hour, the jury responded that it was "making progress," that it would deliberate until 10 p.m. unless it reached a verdict sooner and that it wanted dinner sent into its sixth floor jury room in the federal courthouse here.
At 9:45 p.m. the jurors sent Penn a note, saying they wished to recess for the night.
The jury, which has been sequestered since last Thursday night at a local hotel when it has not been deliberating, offered to give Penn a progress report last Friday. But the judge, with the consent of the government prosecutors and Treadwell's court-appointed attorneys, declined the offer then.
The jury told Penn nearly two weeks ago that it regretted the length of time it was taking to reach a verdict, but never has indicated that it was deadlocked, that it needed clarification of any evidence in the case or that it wanted courtroom testimony read again.
As a result, Penn was reluctant, until yesterday, to interfere with the deliberations, even to ask for or accept a progress report.
Treadwell is accused of using P.I. Properties Inc., a now-defunct real estate firm she headed, to defraud the federal government and the impoverished tenants of Clifton Terrace, which the company owned in the mid-1970s, of thousands of dollars to enrich herself.
She is charged with 21 counts of conspiracy, fraud, tax evasion and making false statements to two federal agencies.
John W. Nields Jr., Treadwell's chief attorney, urged Penn yesterday to ask the jury for the progress report, saying that the deliberations had "been hanging over the head of my client now for 15 days."
He said that "if the government cannot present a case that is understandable by a citizen of ordinary intelligence," then it had "no right" to allow the deliberations to continue if progress was not being made.
Assistant U.S. attorney William D. Pease urged Penn not to ask for a progress report since the jury had not indicated it was having trouble deciding the case.
As an alternative, the prosecutor suggested that the judge inform the jurors that they could return a verdict on some of the charges if they could not reach a decision on all of them. But Nields said such a legal instruction would have a "potential coercive impact" and be "a very unwise move."
Penn opted for the simple request for a progress report.