For those of you unfamiliar with the case of Cyril Wecht in Pittsburgh, the Carpetbbager has the background. Short version, a prominent Democrat was accused of improperly using a public fax machine for personal gain to the toon of a grand or so, and this was worth a $400,000 dollar investigation and trial then ended up in a hung jury.
I know, that is all bizarre in and of itself, but this is the Bush Justice Department, so who knows what the hell is really going on. At any rate, today we learn of a new development:
Two jurors said Thursday they were unnerved by FBI requests for home visits to explain why they deadlocked in the federal public corruption trial of former Allegheny County coroner Cyril H. Wecht.
Experts said the practice of using FBI agents to contact and interview jurors in their homes after mistrials was unusual, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh characterized it as “commonplace.”
“I thought it was kind of intimidating,” the jury foreman said about the FBI phone call.
Said another juror, “I found it kind of unusual.”
Now, just because I have never heard of this sort of thing does not mean it is not commonplace. This may be quite normal for the FBI to come to your house to ask you why you decided a case one way or another, even if it is creepy and intimidating. Or, maybe not:
Wecht defense attorney Jerry McDevitt declined to say whether the defense team spoke to jurors, but said the FBI’s contact with jurors troubled him.
“That’s the problem with their heavy-handed approach to this. Why would they need to talk to them now? They’ve already decided to retry him,” McDevitt said. “I think given the circumstances of this case, it’s coercive. It appears that way with these jurors.”
Westmoreland County defense attorney Tom Ceraso, who was not involved in the case, said in his decades of experience trying cases in federal court he has never heard of the FBI telephoning or interviewing jurors.
“If I’m a prospective juror in the second trial, and I’m hearing stories that if I don’t agree with the government that I might get calls from the FBI, that could have a very, very deleterious impact,” Ceraso said. “I would think that’s very bothersome to have that happen.”
Chime in if you have any information on this.