NEWARK – Jurors in Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial are back to deliberating on the case one day after telling Judge William Walls they were deadlocked.
Before they returned to their jury room this morning, Walls read aloud in court what he termed a “gift” for defense attorneys – a brief re-instruction to the jurors encouraging them to try and reach a unanimous verdict on the charges against Menendez and Dr. Salomon Melgen.
“I’m going to ask you to return to the jury room and deliberate further,” Walls said.
“So, this is not the first time jurors have told the judge they are unable to reach an agreement, and later agreements are reached,” he continued.
Walls said jurors should “not hesitate” to re-examine their views, and to listen carefully to their colleagues.
“What I’ve just said is not meant to…pressure you into agreeing to a verdict,” Walls said.
The judge veered off-script as the he reached the end of his instruction.
“This is not reality TV, this is real life,” Walls said.
Walls’ final, unscripted thought for the jurors was one word they should keep in mind when sitting across the table from each other.
“Ask yourself one question: why?” Walls said.
The judge did not elaborate on his cryptic end note before guaranteeing the jurors their free lunch today and sending them back to the jury room.
When they had gone, Walls’ ad-libs got an objection from Menendez attorney Abbe Lowell, who criticized the judge for deviating from the generic jury instruction.
“When the court varies from it and says a word here, or a word there, it changes the equilibrium,” Lowell said.
Walls took this as a pretext to engage in his umpteenth round of verbal sparring with Lowell, who he painted as having a bone to pick with the judge’s every decision.
“I have no problem with that,” Walls said to Lowell. “You know why? I enjoy it.”
“I don’t appreciate unnecessary nitpicking,” Walls added.
His objections on the record, Lowell retreated to the defense table and Walls adjourned to wait on the jury.
“We’ll recess and see what happens with our jury,” Walls said.