The jury in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort‘s criminal trial asked the judge what they should do if they can’t come to a consensus on a single count, a question that could indicate they are nearing a verdict.
The note suggests that the jury is having difficulty coming to a conclusion on at least one of the 18 criminal bank and tax fraud charges facing Manafort.
“Your honor, if we cannot come to a consensus on a single count, how do we fill out the jury verdict form for that count and what does that mean for the final verdict?” said the note Judge T.S. Ellis III read aloud in court.
Ellis, who reconvened court 11:30 a.m. said, “This is not an exceptional or unusual event in a jury trial.”
He said the note “suggests he knows the answer” to whether the jurors have reached a verdict on the 17 other charges, but he said he was not going to ask them at this time where they stand.
The jury also asked Ellis for a new verdict form, which he said he was not going to provide.
After receiving the note Ellis recessed for five minutes before bringing in the jury to give the attorneys time to review his proposed instructions. Manafort huddled with his team of attorneys chatting in low whispers at the defense table.
Manafort’s lead attorney Kevin Downing objected to Ellis’s decision not to provide a new verdict form with a third option of “hung” for each count.
He said the jurors shouldn’t be misled to think a hung jury at the end of this trial isn’t appropriate.
If the jurors fail to reach a consensus, Ellis told Downing he would “consider accepting what they reach.”
He brought the jury back into the courtroom at 10 minutes to noon and instructed them to try to reach a unanimous verdict. Ellis told them if they fail to agree, the case is left open and undecided.
In the instructions he read, he said the jurors should not hesitate to re-examine their views and change their decision if they think it’s erroneous.
“In conferring together, each of you should pay attention and respect the views of the other,” he said.
Ellis reminded the jury it is their duty to agree on a verdict if they can do so without violating their individual conscience.
The jury is in their fourth day of deliberations in the trial, the first test in court for special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team of prosecutors.
Ellis also lightly scolded the press, asking them not to disrupt the proceedings by running out of the room with breaking news. He said the reporters could run in and out of the overflow courtroom three floors below as much as they please.
After those remarks, the court marshal prevented any other reporters from leaving the room until the proceedings were adjourned.