Judge denies mistrial after dismissing African-American juror

via Judge denies mistrial after dismissing African-American juror in Zimbabwe trial – Nehanda Radio | Nehanda Radio 9 October 2014 by Jason Meisner

UNITED STATES – Lawyers for a South Side activist accused of illegally lobbying on behalf of the oppressive regime in Zimbabwe asked for a mistrial on Tuesday after a federal judge dismissed one of the only African Americans on the jury because of a scheduling conflict.
The move came less than an hour into deliberations at the trial of C. Gregory Turner on charges he illegally lobbied U.S. officials to push for the lifting of longtime economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s regime.

Shortly after closing arguments ended, the juror sent a note telling U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo that he had a cousin’s funeral to attend on Wednesday and would “not be back” in the morning to deliberate.

After conferring with attorneys for both sides, Bucklo asked the juror if he would be willing to come back after the funeral, but he insisted he was done. Bucklo told the attorneys she was worried if she ordered him to return that his “attitude” would poison the deliberations.

Turner’s attorneys immediately moved for a mistrial, arguing that Turner, who is African American, had a right to a more diverse jury. Bucklo, however, quickly denied the motion, noting there was at least one other black on the panel and the dismissal of a juror who could have created a problem had no impact on Turner’s right to a fair trial.

The jury was sent home at about 4:45 p.m. An alternate will be sworn in Wednesday and deliberations will start over again.

The issue with the juror was the latest strange twist in the case. Last month, Turner’s attorneys filed motions seeking to cross-examine two government witnesses – state Sen. Donne Trotter and former U.S. Sen. Roland Burris – about alleged wrongdoing in their past.

The potential fireworks did not pan out, however. Bucklo barred Turner’s attorneys from questioning Trotter about unfounded allegations he’d accepted a $2,000 bribe from Ben Israel as part of an FBI sting.

Trotter testified for prosecutors last week that Turner had forged letters on his official senate letterhead that purported to show he was working his connections with the Obama administration to get the sanctions lifted.

On Monday, prosecutors rested their case without calling Burris – a change in strategy that left dangling a revelation from a pretrial hearing last month.

At that hearing, prosecutors disclosed that a businessman who had been arrested in a public corruption fraud scheme in Chicago had told a federal grand jury in 2012 that while in office Burris had tried to shake him down in exchange for steering military contracts to his suburban medical supply company. Burris was never charged with wrongdoing. Chicago Tribune