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Disharmony among jurors could help Black appeal

But jury's conduct must be extreme to have impact, expert says

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Jurors in the Conrad Black trial are at odds over just how intensely they deliberated last July before finding the former media baron guilty on four of 13 charges.

The Chicago jury spent 12 days deliberating and convicted Lord Black of three counts of fraud and one count of obstruction of justice. Three other former executives of Hollinger International Inc. were also found guilty of fraud. They are all planning to appeal.

One juror, Tina Kadisak, told CBC the mood in the jury room was hostile at times, with jurors screaming and yelling at each other. Ms. Kadisak and other jurors have said the jury was split 9-3 on several counts, with the majority favouring more convictions. One juror became so enraged Ms. Kadisak said she told the holdouts: "I should just bring in my gun and shoot you."

That has been disputed by two other jurors.

"I don't remember anything like that," said foreman Jonathan Keag. He declined to comment on divisions among jurors but said: "People voiced their opinions, but in a civilized way."

Another juror, Monica Prince, also said she didn't hear any talk about a gun. "That's garbage. That's not true," she said.

Jury deliberations can be an important factor on appeal and Lord Black's lawyers will likely pore over media interviews with jurors. But given a recent decision by the Chicago court that will hear Lord Black's appeal, the jury's conduct has to be pretty bad to have an impact.

The decision involved former Illinois governor George Ryan, who was convicted of fraud in 2006 and sentenced to 78 months in jail. Mr. Ryan appealed, citing a string of jury mishaps. According to court documents, during deliberations the foreman complained to the judge twice about name calling and swearing among jurors. One holdout was even threatened with bribery charges by others.

After several days of deliberations, the judge discovered that six jurors had lied under oath about their backgrounds. Two were dismissed and the others received immunity from prosecutors. One juror also brought a legal article into the jury room from home in an attempt to persuade others.

Despite all those problems, the appeal court recently upheld Mr. Ryan's conviction, ruling that the issues were harmless and did not affect the outcome. He has made a further appeal.

Hugh Totten, a Chicago lawyer who has followed the Black case, said given the Ryan decision, he hasn't seen anything in the deliberations by the Black jury that would affect the validity of the verdict.

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