Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Second Mistrial: Hal Turner Jury Hopelessly Deadlocked, Second Federal Assault On First Amendment Blunted; Third Trial Planned For April 12th
The seven-man, five-woman jury in Hal Turner's second trial has become hopelessly deadlocked, thus leading Judge Donald Walter to declare a mistrial on March 10th, 2010. The jury began their deliberations shortly before 3:30 P.M. Monday March 8th in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn after listening to more than 2 1/2 hours of closing arguments and instructions on the law. They recessed at 5 p.m. without reaching a verdict and resumed their deliberations at 9 A.M on Tuesday. But despite numerous votes, members of the jury hardened their respective positions, and finally the jury forewoman delivered a note to Judge Walter saying "Unfortunately, positions have solidified and folks have stated they they will not change their minds no matter how much longer we continue". In addition, Turner's lawyers filed a motion for a mistrial on Tuesday March 9th when it first became apparent the jury was having difficulty reaching a decision. The most current media story has been published by NorthJersey.com; Other media stories published by NorthJersey.com (earlier) and the New York Times.
Believe it or not, the Associated Press reports that the judge has set a new trial date for April 12th and has appointed Peter Kirchheimer, the chief federal public defender in the district, to represent Turner, who is now bankrupt, although Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hogan has not yet confirmed that he will proceed. The first Hal Turner trial also ended in a hung jury, voting 9-3 for acquittal.
After following the trial, I thought an outright acquittal would be possible during this trial. The defense mounted a stronger offense the second time around. On March 5th, not only did Hal Turner personally take the stand and slug it out toe to toe with Assistant U.S. Attorney William Hogan in such a heated fashion that Judge Walter had to intervene several times, but a parade of FBI agents began taking the stand and denied that Turner was considered a threat. Amy Pickett, a high-ranking FBI supervisor who's now a deputy in the FBI’s New York City field office, testified that Turner was never considered a threat. Pickett was the supervisor in the bureau’s Newark-based Joint Terrorism Task Force who approved Turner to be a secret informant in the first place.
On March 8th, Daniel Brunner, who is assigned to the FBI’s CT-4 domestic counter-terrorism and weapons of mass destruction squad in Newark, testified that he took part in the arrest of Turner at his North Bergen home in June 2009 for allegedly posting a threat against three Chicago judges on his radio show Internet blog. Reviewing FBI reports in Turner’s confidential informant file, Brunner stated that he had no information to suggest that Turner was a leader of an extremist organization or had any followers. Prior to Turner’s arrest, Brunner said the controversial talk-show host told agents, “I would not kill or harm the judges myself.” Afterwards, FBI agent Joseph Raschke took the stand and said Turner was closed as an informant in late March 2005 after postings relating to the murder of a Chicago judge’s mother and husband. Turner warned judges not to “screw around with pro-white groups because some of us are willing to kill and you can be gotten too.” But Raschke conceded on cross-examination that until this case, Turner was never charged with any crime for any statements he made, including comments on his blog and on national television shows that the Chicago judge was “worthy of death.”
Earlier in the trial during Day Two, the three 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges targeted by Turner -- Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook and Judges Richard Posner and William Bauer -- gave testimony. All said they felt threatened by Turner's posts. In addition, Hal Turner took the stand in his own defense on Days Three and Four; it was during this time that Turner confessed that he never actually believed in White nationalism, but was merely playing a role.
Meanwhile, even before the final verdict, Turner's defense team, Nishay K. Sanan and Michael A. Orozco, announced that Hal Turner had fired them, not because he was particularly unhappy with them, but to get "fresh eyes" on the case. Sanan, who is of Indian descent, and Orozco, who is of Puerto Rican descent, said that race did not play a role in their dismissal. “He is not a racist,” said Orozco. A post on Family Of Hal Turner supports this contention; Turner appears to be unhappy that his defense team didn't win an outright acquittal. One source is also reporting that Hal Turner was taken to hospital for "chest pains"; he was treated for a "chest infection" and released. There has been no media substantiation of this report so far.
Reaction: Turner's mother, 66-year-old Kathy Diamond, said she was disappointed that the charges weren’t dismissed and urged prosecutors to drop the case. “They put on their finest show, judges and all, and they couldn’t win,” Ms. Diamond said. “It’s time to say uncle and let everyone get on with their lives.” Both Hal Turner and jury members refused comment, citing the judge's gag order. But subsequently, Family Of Hal Turner revealed that two jurors spoke anonymously off the record. One of the jurors said, "“The real reason they don’t want us talking to the media is because the prosecution lost so badly. They don’t want anyone to know their case was shit.” Both jurors also revealed that the vote for acquittal was 10-2, with the two holdouts objecting to one particular posting on Turner’s web site from the year 2008. In that posting, offered as “evidence” by the prosecution, Turner suggested the inauguration of Barack Obama looked like a scene from planet of the apes.
Analysis: Both sides mounted strong offenses, contributing to the mistrial. While the defense brought in FBI personnel to buttress Turner's contention that he was merely running an FBI operation, the prosecution scored big in bringing the three targeted judges to the stand. Judges tend to have strong credibility in the eyes of most people.
What's truly despicable is the Federal intent to try Turner for a third time. This shows that any pretense of justice is gone; the Feds simply want to get Turner and are willing to pay any price to do it. But each time they re-try Turner, they are doing it with tax dollars; namely, OUR money.