Jurors began their deliberations Wednesday in the federal bribery trial of labor leader John Dougherty and Philadelphia City Councilmember Bobby Henon but broke for the day after roughly 4½ hours of discussion without reaching a verdict.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl handed the case to the panel of eight women and four men after spending the morning instructing them on the relevant law.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said before sending them off to a courtroom across the hall to deliberate, “take this case and please, render justice.”
The fact that the deliberations were able to begin was a relief to the judge after one panel member tested positive for COVID-19. She was dismissed from jury service Monday and replaced with an alternate, but concern remained that others have been exposed to the virus.
Schmehl announced Tuesday that the rest of the jury members were vaccinated, they were all rapid-tested and, so far, the results have come back negative.
Still, he moved the deliberations from the usual cramped quarters of the jury room to a larger courtroom to accommodate social distancing. And jurors will continue to be tested regularly, the judge said.
The panel spent most of the afternoon cloistered in silence, occasionally sending requests to the judge to see certain pieces of evidence, which Schmehl and the attorneys discussed privately in his chambers.
Dougherty, meanwhile, passed the time milling around the courtroom in relative silence, pausing occasionally to talk to Henon, his lawyers, or supporters who lingered in hopes of a quick verdict. “I just want to get back to doing what I do,” he told reporters at the end of the day.
» READ MORE: Catch up on the John Dougherty and Bobby Henon trial
Both he and Henon have denied prosecutors’ allegations that he bribed the councilmember with a $70,000-a-year union salary and other benefits to act as his proxy on Council.
They face multiple counts of conspiracy, honest services fraud, and bribery that could send them to prison for up to 20 years on the most serious count.
Jurors will resume deliberations Thursday morning.
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