Jurors on Monday afternoon told Walls that these were deadlocked and asked him how to proceed. | Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Pictures Menendez lawyer, judge quarrel as jurors return back into deliberations
NEWARK – The federal government judge overseeing Sen. Robert Menendez’s corruption circumstance clashed with the Democrat’s lead lawyer over jury guidance on Tuesday morning.
“That is a serious matter. This is not reality TV. That is true to life,” Judge Williams Walls informed jurors. He then presented the jurors an instruction: “When you be seated around that table and you happen to be deliberating, I want you to ask the other person one thing: ‘Why?’”
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Menendez lawyer Abbe Lowell said Walls’ way to the jurors to ask “why” had not been contained in the model guidance he previously given attorneys.
“I object to the fact that you varied from everything you gave us ahead of time,” Lowell said. “I don’t really know what the ‘why’ was.’”
Jurors deliberated the other day on the 18 corruption counts against Menendez and co-defendant Salomon Melgen. But Walls dismissed one of the jurors previous Friday thus she could go on a long-planned vacation, and after replacing her with another told jurors to get started deliberations from scratch on Monday.
Jurors on Monday afternoon told Walls these were deadlocked and asked him how to proceed. He sent them residence an hour early and informed them to get some good rest, come back Tuesday and continue to keep deliberating.
Responding to Lowell’s criticism Tuesday, Walls said: “How come an extremely common and innocuous but an effective question. Why? … Exactly like ‘why are you position there grimacing?’”
“I’m not grimacing,” Lowell said.
Walls also told jurors that “this is simply not the first time jurors have got told a good judge they are unable to reach an contract, and later on agreements are reached” – a good comment Lowell also objected to.
Prosecutors alleged that Melgen, a good Florida ophthalmologist, plied Menendez with gifts, including private jet flights, luxury resort stays and around $750,000 in advertising campaign contributions. In trade, Menendez allegedly visited bat for Melgen’s organization interests at the highest levels of the federal government, seeking officials’ help in his $8.9 million Medicare dispute, wanting to receive American officials to pressure the Dominican Republic to honor a profitable port security deal Melgen owned and securing visas for three of Melgen’s previous girlfriends.
The defense will not dispute that Menendez did favors for Melgen, but argues these were borne out of a 20-year friendship and that Melgen’s disputes with the federal government raised reputable policy issues.