Wecht jury finished until Tuesday

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Jurors in the federal fraud trial of Dr. Cyril H. Wecht today gave the first concrete indication that they might have trouble reaching a verdict on some of the counts.

The jury asked U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab: "Out of the 41 counts, if any one or more count the jury cannot come to unanimous agreement on, does that constitute a hung jury?"

After consulting with prosecutors and Dr. Wecht's defense team, the judge sent this response: "The answer to your question is, 'No.' "

It is possible, for instance, for the jury to reach a split verdict of guilty on some charges and not guilty on others, and to be unable to make a unanimous decision on the rest.

Today is the sixth day of deliberations. The jury sent the question -- its second -- as they were in their 30th hour of discussions.

Both defense attorneys and prosecutors rejected a suggestion by the judge that the jury be polled on how many counts it is unanimous.

The 41 charges against Dr. Wecht comprise multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and theft from an organization receiving federal funds. Prosecutors questioned 44 witnesses over 22 days of testimony to try to prove to jurors that Dr. Wecht defrauded his private clients and used county resources to enrich himself.

Judge Schwab dismissed the jury for today at 2 p.m. The jury will not return to continue deliberations until Tuesday.

The rest of Judge Schwab's response to jurors today read: "It is your duty as jurors to consult with one another and to deliberate with a view to reaching an agreement if you can do so without violence to individual judgment. Each of you must decide the case for yourself, but do so only after an impartial consideration of the evidence in the case with your fellow jurors. In the course of your deliberations, do not hesitate to examine your own views, and change your opinion, if convinced it is erroneous. But do not surrender your honest conviction as to the weight or effect of evidence solely because of the opinion of your fellow jurors, or for the mere purpose of returning a verdict."

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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