NEW YORK – The grand-larceny trial of two former Tyco International Ltd. (TYC) executives veered closer to a mistrial on Friday as jurors remained at each other's throats, prompting the judge to send them home early to calm down.
The jury asked state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus for permission to leave early Friday and return to deliberate Monday.
"Your wish is my command," the judge said. He added: "Put this away for a while. Relax."
Earlier Friday, the jurors specified in a note that they were not a hung jury. But, they said, "We firmly believe that this jury's ability to communicate and deliberate with an open mind is irreparably compromised."
The judge asked the jurors to reconsider over lunch, and they later answered with a note asking that they be allowed to return on Monday.
Deliberations began last week in the case against former Tyco Chairman Dennis Kozlowski (search) and ex-finance chief Mark Swartz (search). They went on trial in late September on charges that they had looted the conglomerate of $600 million.
Even Obus expressed concern that the jury would not be able to reach a verdict. At one point, he said he was not optimistic that the trial would go past Friday and said the situation among jurors had clearly worsened.
"This is not a hung jury note...it's something worse," Obus said. "Something else is going on here."
Defense attorneys asked for a mistrial three times over the two days. Their push for a mistrial was no surprise, since one of the notes indicated the majority of the jury favored a conviction.
"One or more jurors ... refuse to recognize the right of at least one juror to have a good faith belief that the prosecution had not proved its case," the note said.
Juror No. 4, a retired lawyer and teacher, appeared to be the center of controversy on the panel after making what looked like an "OK" sign with her right hand as she entered the courtroom earlier on Friday.
The juror's apparent gesture came as the panel of three women and nine men reassembled for a seventh day of deliberations in one of the largest corporate corruption cases in U.S. history. Prosecutors complained to the judge about the gesture, which was clear to most of the courtroom, but not Obus.
Obus later instructed the jury not to make any "verbal" or "non-verbal" communications during the lunch recess. He asked the jurors to let the court know whether they could resolve the infighting after the break.
The rancor that erupted late on Thursday in the deliberation room continued on Friday even after Obus started the day by urging civility and respect. Jury notes on Thursday described the atmosphere as poisonous.
Obus instructed the jurors to set aside hard feelings and work toward a verdict following an almost six-month trial, which is being watched as a pivotal corporate corruption prosecution in the wake of other scandals, such as those at Enron and WorldCom.
"If you feel you have done something that you must apologize for, then apologize. If an apology is offered, accept it," Obus told the jury, as he balanced his remarks with humor and gravity.
Kozlowski, 57, and Swartz, 43, are accused of looting $600 million from the electronics and medical supplies maker, using the money to finance lavish lifestyles. Kozlowski once made more than $100 million in one year.
Kozlowski's $6,000 shower curtain and $2 million toga party on a Mediterranean island made him a symbol of end-of-the-millennium greed and excess on Wall Street.
Each could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on 32 counts of grand larceny, falsifying business records and violating state business laws.
Kozlowski and Swartz allegedly stole $170 million by taking unauthorized bonuses and abusing company loan programs. They netted another $430 million by allegedly pumping up Tyco stock prices and selling their shares at market rates from 1995 through 2002, prosecutors say.
The defense argued that the two men earned every dime and that the board of directors and the company's auditors knew about the compensation and never objected.
Tyco, which has about 270,000 employees and $36 billion in annual revenue, has operations headquarters in West Windsor, N.J., but is based in Bermuda. It owns the ADT home security business.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.