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Fattah juror: I will hang this jury no matter what

Four hours in, jury deliberations this summer in U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's federal corruption trial hit a seemingly unresolvable impasse.

Four hours in, jury deliberations this summer in U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's federal corruption trial hit a seemingly unresolvable impasse.

Insults were hurled, voices were raised, and nine members of the panel complained to the judge that a lone holdout would "constantly scream at all of us," making reaching a verdict all but impossible.

But it was a stray comment that juror made to a court clerk while leaving that evening in June that led the judge to eject him from the panel - and raised questions that Fattah's lawyers now say should prompt an appeals court to overturn the congressman's conviction.

"He just looked me straight in the eye, and he said, 'I'm going to hang this jury,' " the clerk later recalled the juror as saying, according to court filings made public for the first time Friday.

The clerk's account and the dismissed juror's own version of events were contained in 90 pages of transcripts released by U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III at the request of Philadelphia Media Network, parent company of the Inquirer, the Daily News, and

The documents reveal behind-the-scenes turmoil at one of the city's most closely watched trials in years - and offer a glimpse of an issue likely to form the backbone of the congressman's appeal.

Fattah was ultimately found guilty of stealing charitable donations, federal grant funds, and campaign contributions to pay off his personal and political debts, and was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.

But his supporters say that verdict came only after Bartle improperly ejected a conscientious juror who remained unconvinced of the 60-year-old defendant's guilt.

Until Friday, few knew the full circumstances that had led to the juror's dismissal. Bartle had sealed all records surrounding the man's removal. Lawyers on both sides had declined to discuss the matter, citing orders from the judge. And the jurors have largely remained silent.

The dismissed juror, Timothy Miller, 47, a salesman from Lancaster County, could not be reached for comment Friday.

But he explained his position to the judge in a June 17 interview contained in the transcripts.

"I'm not just going to say guilty because everybody wants me to," he said. "If that hangs the jury, so be it."

The transcripts suggest that before jurors had even completed their first full day of deliberations, several had already reached their limits - and most blamed their frustrations on Miller.

He "has an agenda or ax to grind with the government," jury foreman William Cassidy wrote in a note to the judge hours after deliberations began June 16.

After receiving another message signed by nine jurors complaining of Miller's behavior, Bartle interviewed several in his chambers.

"It was mayhem," Cassidy told the judge, according to the transcript. "[Miller] raises his voice. He stands up. He puts his hand on another juror. I'm going to tell you right now, he's a time bomb in that room, and he's got everybody on edge."

Others complained he focused on Fattah's motivations as well as those of the prosecutors instead of the evidence.

"The majority of us, we can review the evidence and we can come to a conclusion," said juror Cynthia Rivers of Lansdowne during her interview. "That's 11 of us. And then you have one person. . . . His justification for some of his responses don't seem to relate to what the matter is before us. "

But in his own interview with the judge, Miller maintained that his friction with the other jurors stemmed from their refusal to seriously consider the evidence.

He found himself alone on an 11-1 divide to convict after eight votes, he said, and believed none of the others were willing to listen to his views. Some, he said, had resorted to name-calling, calling him "stupid" and asking whether he had hit his head too many times during his military service.

"I bring up evidence," Miller told Bartle. "They said, 'That doesn't mean anything.' They pointed to the indictment. I said, 'The indictment is not evidence.' ... Then they threatened to have me thrown off."

It was as Miller was being led back to the jury room after his interview with the judge that he made his comment to the judge's clerk about forcing a mistrial. The next morning, Bartle removed him from the panel.

"He has preconceived notions about the case. He has violated his oath as a juror," the judge said in an oral order included in the transcripts. "I think he's intent on, as he said, hanging this jury no matter what the law is, no matter what the evidence is."

How that decision will impact Fattah's appeal prospects remains to be seen. Prosecutors and Fattah's lawyers declined to discuss the matter Friday.

But in in-chambers discussions before Bartle's decision in June, the defense laid out its position.

"This juror is somebody who is being shamed out of the room for expressing his viewpoint," Fattah lawyer Samuel Silver said at the time. "To dismiss him would be a very, very disturbing thing, because it would suggest that somebody who is dissenting and trying to explain his position does not have a seat at the table."

Prosecutors, however, saw bias in Miller's comments.

"His refusal to deliberate would be further evidence of . . . his unsuitability as a juror," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson told the judge.

In 2007, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that judges could dismiss holdout jurors only when there is no "reasonable possibility" that their refusal to participate is based on the evidence.

Bartle, while still weighing his decision in June, acknowledged the difficulty in making that judgment.

"Like life itself, it's not totally simple," he told the lawyers. "There was some conflicting testimony that was given before [me], and I will have to decide who to believe, who not to believe."