NEW YORK – The judge presiding over the corporate-looting trial of two former Tyco International (TYC) executives declined to call a mistrial Monday, rejecting a request by defense lawyers who said one juror apparently holding out for acquittal had been pressured by intense media coverage.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said he spoke privately with the juror, who was depicted on the cover of a tabloid newspaper over the weekend making an "OK" hand signal to the defense.
"While she volunteered more than was asked, she did state to the court that nothing that has happened will from her point of view prevent her from deliberating in good conscience with the other jurors, and she has said she is prepared to do so and is doing so," Obus said.
He did not elaborate on the "more than was asked" remark.
"It seems to me that it would be inappropriate to declare a mistrial when all 12 jurors, who have devoted six months of their lives to this trial, are prepared to continue," said Obus.
Lawyers for former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski (search) and former finance chief Mark Swartz (search) showed the judge the front page of Saturday's edition of the New York Post, which bore a sketch of a juror and called her "Ms. Trial" in large type. Inside, the paper identified her by name and called her a "paranoid socialite" and "batty blueblood."
Kozlowski and Swartz are accused of looting $600 million from the conglomerate. The trial has come to symbolize the corporate excesses of the late 1990s.
The juror, No. 4 on the panel, made a hand motion on Friday as she passed in front of lawyers on her way to the jury box, bringing her hand near her face. Some in the courtroom interpreted it as an "OK" signal, although lawyers said they did not see it. The gesture was depicted on the cover of the Post as a clear "OK" signal.
Assistant District Attorney Marc Scholl pointed out that the judge has repeatedly urged jurors to stay away from media coverage of the case. He said it was mere speculation to suggest the jury had disobeyed those instructions.
"The law presumes that the jurors will follow the court's instructions," he said.
Last week, jurors indicated in a note that the atmosphere in the jury room had turned "poisonous" to the point of name-calling. While the prospect of a mistrial loomed Friday, jurors said they wanted to return Monday to continue deliberating.
They did just that, even sending a note Monday afternoon asking the judge to clarify the concept of "acting in concert," an element of one of the grand-larceny charges against Swartz.
The New York Post is owned by News Corp., which is also the parent company of FOXNews.com.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.