NEWARK, N.J. — One day after reporting they were deadlocked, jurors at U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial spent the day in deliberations Tuesday but left without returning a verdict.
The panel of seven women and five men didn’t ask the judge any questions during the fifth full day of deliberations — but only the second since one juror was replaced — in a room off a fourth-floor courtroom here.
U.S. District Judge William H. Walls told jurors Tuesday morning that it wasn’t unusual for juries to struggle to reach a unanimous agreement. He also said other panels had reported being deadlocked at first and later reached agreement.
“In the course of your deliberations, do not hesitate to reexamine your own views,” the judge said, adding that he did not intend “to rush or pressure you into agreeing to a verdict.”
Walls added, “When you sit around that table and you are deliberating, I want you to ask each other, one thing: why?”
Defense attorneys for Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, objected to parts of Walls’ instruction, arguing that he had encouraged jurors to reach a verdict when in fact a hung jury would be an appropriate result.
“Coercive measures, including charges, cannot be used to blast a jury from a deadlock,” Raymond M. Brown, an attorney for Menendez, told the judge.
Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, face 18 counts, including conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud.
The senator is accused of corruptly accepting gifts from Melgen in exchange for performing official acts to advance Melgen’s financial and personal interests.
The two men say the government’s case is undercut by their longtime friendship, and their attorneys have asked for a mistrial.
After Walls excused jurors for the day, the judge and defense attorneys discussed possible next steps.
If the jury again reports that it is deadlocked, Melgen attorney Murad Hussain said, the judge should “inquire of the jury foreman as to utility of further deliberation.”
Peter Koski, a prosecutor with the Justice Department, said the judge should consider instructing jurors to determine whether they can reach a unanimous agreement with regard to at least some of the charges — and thereby return a partial verdict.
Walls said he was open to both ideas. But he took issue with the defense’s suggestion that he ought to tell jurors that a deadlock was acceptable.
“Give me precedent for that,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard that.”
Defense attorneys said they would look for such a case.