Judge may interview jurors in Grace trial
BATON ROUGE-- Judge Maurice Hicks may interview jurors in George Grace's trial about issues that have caused contempt in the deliberation room.
Grace is charged with racketeering, fraud, extortion, and bribery. The feds say Grace took bribes in exchange for completing official acts as mayor. Grace said on the stand he was working as a consultant for men who turned out to be undercover FBI agents, not taking bribes.
Judge Hicks sent jurors home early around 4:00 Friday afternoon, after they requested to leave to think about their decisions. Jurors have been deliberating two days straight during this sixth week of Grace's trial.
Three jurors sent Judge Hicks messages after lunch Friday requesting a meeting with the judge. One requested that meeting be in private. The judge said no, because he did not want to taint jurors. Both the prosecution and Grace's defense showed some concern jurors may feel threatened, even too threatened to write in a message to the judge what their problem was.
Senator Robert Marionneaux, one of Grace's lawyers, wanted the judge to read jurors options in the case they could not come to a unanimous verdict. The judge refused to do that, citing it was too early in deliberations.
An hour later, the judge received three more messages from jurors requesting meetings. At least one juror reported she felt "badgered" and felt she "should not be yelled at" when trying to come to a unanimous decision.
While ruling on those notes, the judge received another note asking for jurors to go home early; he granted that request.
In a special meeting at 5:30, Hicks told both the prosecution and defense he changed his mind and wants to interview jurors with issues. Hicks said he received a note from a juror that said he or she didn't think something "should be" against the law.
Grace's attorney, Lewis Unglesby, told the judge he "can't and shouldn't" talk to jurors. In light of those objections, Hicks decided to read instructions to the jury again Saturday morning.
If the jury cannot reach a decision Saturday, Hicks will speak with jurors.