Wecht defense calls for mistrial
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Defense attorneys for former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril H. Wecht yesterday requested a mistrial, saying that jurors had indicated they were at an impasse.
"Sending the jury back to deliberate after confirming a hopeless deadlock creates a great danger ... that the jury will now believe the only way out is to render a verdict on something," the defense team said in a motion filed yesterday in U.S. District Court.
The 11 remaining jurors -- one juror was dismissed Wednesday for medical reasons -- on Thursday told U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab that they were unable to reach verdicts on fraud and theft charges facing Dr. Wecht.
Judge Schwab instructed the panel of six women and five men, who have been deliberating for nine days following a seven-week trial, to return Monday and try again.
Prosecutors then asked Judge Schwab to instruct the jurors on their option to return partial verdicts.
"Not only do the history of the jury's prior communications, the length of deliberations, the complexity of the case, the length of the trial, and the amount of evidence the jury is to consider all support giving the partial verdict instruction, but common sense calls for giving this instruction as well," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said in the motion. "There is no harm or prejudice whatsoever in giving the jury this approved instruction at this stage, particularly after they have initially indicated a deadlock."
It is the third time that prosecutors have requested that the jurors be given instructions regarding partial verdicts.
Dr. Wecht's defense attorneys, led by Jerry McDevitt, yesterday rebutted the suggestion that partial verdicts were a viable alternative, saying, "The jury did not indicate, intimate or imply they were unanimous on any count."
Dr. Wecht is charged with 41 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and theft from an organization receiving federal funds.
Prosecutors allege he used his status as county coroner to enrich himself, and they have accused him of defrauding private clients of his autopsy and consultation business by falsely inflating airfares and fabricating invoices for limousine rides he never took.
First Published April 5, 2008 12:00 am