Dissent Hits ‘Dysfunctional’ Jury in Ex-Gov’s Trial

  • Print

A federal appeals court has affirmed former Illinois Gov. George Ryan’s conviction for fraud and corruption, despite jury problems during the trial.

The Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that the federal judge who oversaw the six-month trial acted within her authority when she replaced two jurors after deliberations began for failing to disclose criminal records, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“The fact that the trial may not have been picture-perfect is, in itself, nothing unusual,” Judge Diane Wood wrote in the 2-1 decision (PDF). “We conclude that the district court handled most problems that arose in an acceptable manner, and that whatever error remained was harmless.”

Ryan was convicted last year for improprieties in the awarding of state leases and contracts during his tenure as Illinois secretary of state. He was sentenced to serve 6 ½ years in prison. A co-defendant was also convicted.

Dissenting Judge Michael Kanne called the jury deliberations “dysfunctional.” He said a majority of jurors had given untruthful answers under oath, yet only two were dismissed. Some jurors could have feared criminal prosecution for perjury when they rendered their verdicts, affecting their ability to be fair and partial, he concluded.

“In the final analysis, this case was inexorably driven to a defective conclusion by the natural human desire to bring an end to the massive expenditure of time and resources occasioned by this trial—to the detriment of the defendants,” Kanne wrote in dissent. “Given the breadth and depth of both structural and nonstructural errors, I have no doubt that if this case had been a six-day trial, rather than a six-month trial, a mistrial would have been swiftly declared. It should have been here.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.