Dismissed juror causes uncertainty in Menendez corruption trial

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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez arrives at court for his federal corruption trial in Newark, N.J., Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

[Update: 5:08 p.m.]

On Monday afternoon, the jury has told Judge William Walls that they are deadlocked and unable to reach a consensus on any of the charges. “What do we do now?” they asked in a note.

Walls sent them home early, instructing the 12 jurors to get some rest, eat a good meal, and return Tuesday morning to continue deliberating.

Although the defense suggested declaring a mistrial due to the jury deadlock, Walls declined.

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[1:08 p.m.]

A person not sitting in federal court in Newark on Monday held major sway over the trial of U.S. Sen Bob Menendez.

Previously known as Juror No. 8, Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby was excused from the jury on Thursday to take a trip she had planned before the federal corruption trial began nine weeks ago.

Speaking to reporters after leaving court on Thursday, she said she thought Justice Department prosecutors were “railroading” Menendez and claimed she would have voted to acquit the high-ranking Democrat on the bribery, conspiracy, fraud, and false statements charges he faces.

She also claimed in an interview that she was prevented from communicating with Judge William Walls and that other jurors wanted to “wait her out” because they knew she would be leaving shortly for vacation.

Then, Monday morning, it was revealed that Arroyo-Maultsby sent a note to Walls on Thursday, indicating the jury had reached a verdict on Wednesday, but never announced their decision, which she found unfair.

Abbe Lowell, a defense attorney for Menendez, said her comments raised “the potential for misconduct” on the jury.

Walls replaced Arroyo-Maultsby with an alternate and instructed the jury to start deliberations again, a move Lowell argued could still be problematic.

“You may not be starting with a brand-new jury,” Lowell said. “You may have a jury that has been infected by the publicity that has occurred by what Juror No. 8 has said.”

Sensing that defense attorneys were arguing for misconduct to make a play for a mistrial, Walls told them “you’re way off target,” vowing not to throw the case out.

But he did agree with one request by the defense: to poll the jury about whether they heard or read any news stories about Arroyo-Maultsby’s comments over the weekend.

When asked in open court, four members of the jury and three alternates raised their hands, indicating that they had heard or read a news story about the trial.

Walls and the attorneys retreated to the judge’s chambers to interview those jurors individually, emerging shortly afterwards, seeming to have been satisfied with their responses.

Lowell requested that Walls ask each juror whether Arroyo-Maultsby was thwarted from sending a note to the judge last week and whether other jurors conspired to delay voting on a verdict until after Arroyo-Maultsby left.

Walls repeated that it would not be misconduct to “wait out” a juror who has to leave. “That’s life,” he said.

But when he brought out the new jury — 11 original jurors and one alternate — Walls reminded them that “every juror has the right to communicate with me at all times.”

Walls then instructed the body to hit reset on their deliberations.

“Forget about whatever happened last week,” he said. “You’re to start from scratch. This is day one.”

Then, one by one, the jurors filed out of the courtroom to start over.

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