Jury presses reset button in Menendez trial

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez greets supporters as he arrives to court in Newark, N.J., last month. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez greets supporters as he arrives to court in Newark, N.J., last month. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo)

The federal jury deciding the fate of New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez will start from scratch Monday after a juror was excused last week to take a trip she had planned before the trial.

On Thursday, Judge William Walls replaced her with an alternate juror and instructed the body to begin deliberations anew this week.

But how do 11 people who have been poring over evidence and offering their viewpoints on the case for more than three days truly start over?

“Restarting the deliberations means just that,” said Mark Lee, a former federal prosecutor and a partner at the law firm Blank Rome in Philadelphia.

Lee acknowledged the original jurors may not be thrilled at the prospect of having to begin deliberating a second time, more than nine weeks into the trial.

But he said it will mean those jurors get a second chance to consider the evidence — with the assistance of a fresh set of eyes on the case.

“That new [juror] may have seen something that the other 11 didn’t see in the first go-round,” Lee said.

Excused juror Evelyn Arroyo-Maultsby indicated the panel was having trouble reaching a consensus on the 18 counts of conspiracy, bribery, fraud and false statements.

Justice Department prosecutors contend that Menendez, a high-ranking Democrat, flexed his political muscle to benefit Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen in exchange for free flights, trips and sizable political contributions.

Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Arroyo-Maultsby said the jury was split on the charges, but that in her eyes, Menendez was no criminal.

“What I saw in the courtroom was he was not guilty on all counts and so was Dr. Melgen,” she said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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