The judge in the case of state Sen. Jane Orie has declared a mistrial.
The order this afternoon by Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning followed his earlier order to suspend deliberations after the prosecution accused the defense of having submitted altered documents among its exhibits. The mistrial came three weeks after the public corruption trial started.
Prosecutor Lawrence Claus displayed three documents that he said showed evidence that the signature of Jamie Pavlot was cut and pasted from one document to another. Ms. Pavlot was Ms. Orie's top aide in the North Hills office and a major witness for the prosecution.
Defense attorney William Costopoulos said "these were not doctored."
A clearly irate Judge Jeffrey Manning rejected the protest.
"Ray Charles could see that signature was doctored," he said, pointing to an image of one document projected on the wall. The three documents are 101A, 101B and 110. They are part of a package of 50 documents introduced into evidence.
Judge Manning ordered deliberations halted and the documents retrieved from the jury room. He ordered that a forensic document analyst be brought in to examine the papers.
Ms. Pavlot had testified during the trial that she didn't recognize the documents, or some of the notations on the documents, though most were purported to be messages between the senator and herself. The analyst came in to analyze the documents to see whether there was evidence that they had been altered.
A couple of hours later, shortly before 3 p.m., Judge Manning called jurors back into his courtroom, told them a "fraud had been perpetrated," and dismissed them without further explanation.
He said the jury would "read in the newspapers" what had transpired before he declared the mistrial.
No new trial date had been set for Sen. Orie and her co-defendant, her sister, Janine Orie.
Janine Orie's attorney, James DePasquale, asked Judge Manning to allow the jury to continue deliberating in her part of the case, but he refused, saying the two cases were "too closely interrelated" to allow one to go on after the other was dismissed.
Jurors leaving Downtown after being dismissed said they had so little time that they didn't get to debating the guilt or innocence of the Orie sisters.
"It took so long, we listened to so much -- and we got, what, a day and a half to talk about it?" said a male juror who asked not to be identified.
"Really we didn't have anything to say. We had listened and listened and listened . . . [The jurors] were just thinking. Sharing ideas and sharing impressions," said a female juror. "We hadn't gotten there [to debating.] We were just venting. There was just mountains and mountains of evidence. It was just massive."
Another female juror said that Judge Manning "stopped us from deliberating at 11-ish and just said 'stop.' "
The judge went to the jury room to explain the mistrial, said another male juror. "He brought the documentation up and he explained to us, 'This is what it was -- I can't just say disregard this one document because it would throw everything else into question.' "
James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562. Len Barcousky: email@example.com or 412-263-1159. First Published March 3, 2011 5:15 PM