Nagin jury expected to return to deliberations

UPDATE: A federal jury has convicted former Mayor Ray Nagin of corruption, finding that the mayor traded his political influence for bribes from city contractors. Nagin was found guilty on 20 of 21 counts.

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One of the 12 jurors considering the evidence in former Mayor Ray Nagin’s corruption trial had a “medical issue” and could not make it to the federal courthouse Tuesday, leading U.S. District Court Judge Ginger Berrigan to cancel deliberations for the day.

Deliberations had not begun when the cancellation was announced around 10 a.m.

The jury will resume its work at 9 a.m. Wednesday, court officials said.

Officials would not elaborate on the reason for the juror’s absence, referring to it only as a “juror problem.” But a minute entry posted late Tuesday afternoon said, “one of the jurors contacted the court to advise that the juror has a medical issue and will not be available for deliberation today.” The juror, whose gender was not specified, will be available on Wednesday, the order said.

Four alternate jurors sat through the nine-day trial, and all four were at the courthouse Tuesday at Berrigan’s direction.

But the judge declined to replace the absent juror, perhaps in part because the jury had already deliberated on the 21-count indictment against Nagin for more than three hours on Monday, after hearing closing arguments in the morning.

Canceling a day of deliberations in order to accommodate one juror is “highly unusual,” said Loyola Law School professor Dane Ciolino. “With alternates available, I am surprised that she did not dismiss the juror,” he said, adding that he suspects one side or the other might have objected to the dismissal.

Tulane Law School professor Tania Tetlow was less surprised by the decision to take a day off rather than potentially alter the makeup of the jury.

“Judges do their best not to meddle with the composition of the trial jury if they can help it, so if a juror had a temporary problem like illness or a family emergency, it would seem better to wait,” she said.

Members of the jury come from six of the 13 parishes in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Four are from St. Tammany Parish, two apiece from Orleans, Jefferson and Terrebonne parishes, and one apiece from St. John the Baptist and Tangipahoa parishes. It wasn’t clear which juror did not show up Tuesday.

Nagin is accused of taking bribes from city contractors, filing false income tax returns, money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the federal government.