The Chicago jury hearing Conrad Black’s racketeering trial today revealed that it was deadlocked on “one or more” of the 16 criminal counts facing the fallen media mogul and his three co-defendants.
In spite of pleas from Lord Black’s lawyers to accept a partial verdict, judge Amy St Eve ordered the nine men and three women to go back into the jury room and resume deliberating at Chicago’s federal courthouse.
Under American law, nothing less than unanimity on each count is adequate. But if she feels that the jury can go no further, judge St Eve has the discretion to accept verdicts on those counts which are agreed, while declaring a mistrial on the rest.
The charges facing Lord Black include racketeering, fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice. The former Telegraph owner is accused of plundering $60m (£30m) from his Hollinger media empire along with three senior colleagues – Peter Atkinson, Jack Boultbee and Mark Kipnis.
After 52 hours of deliberation spread over nine days, the jury’s note said: “We have discussed and deliberated on all the evidence and we are still unable to reach a unanimous verdict on one or more counts. Please advise.”
In a post script added to the bottom, the foreman told the judge that the jurors had already read the so-called “dynamite” instruction generally given to deadlocked jurors, which tells panelists to keep an open mind and to re-examine their views.
The hurriedly convened hearing forced Lord Black to rush across Chicago from his quarters at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. He smiled and joked with lawyers as he entered the courtroom but as the content of the jury’s note was revealed, the peer became sombre and frowned heavily.