The federal racketeering trial of reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Ligambi and six others resumed Tuesday after the trial judge apparently concluded jurors weren't unduly influenced by reports of a mob hit in South Philadelphia last week.
U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno questioned each of the 12 jurors and five alternates individually behind closed doors to find out how much they knew about Wednesday's fatal shooting of Gino DiPietro, allegedly by reputed mob soldier Anthony Nicodemo.
Nine of the jurors told the judge they had heard about the killing, but only one thought it might influence deliberations, defense lawyer Edwin Jacobs told Ligambi's friends and supporters outside the courtroom. The lawyers planned to review the transcript of that juror's conversation before deciding if he or she should continue on the panel, he said.
Robreno was also expected to remind them that the killing had no connection to the ongoing trial and shouldn't be a factor in their deliberations.
The judge didn't mention the issue as he took the bench at 10:45 a.m., or after all the jurors filed into their seats minutes later to hear the first witness called by the defense.
Philadelphia police have charged Nicodemo with DiPietro's murder, but not yet declared a motive. DiPietro had a criminal record for drug dealing; some reports also cited rumors that he might have been cooperating with organized crime investigators.
Even if unrelated, the shooting, on the final day of the government prosecution against Ligambi, provided a flash of mob-infused drama to a case that has largely lacked it. Relying on a stable of turncoats and thousands of secret recordings gathered over the past decade, prosecutors have accused the 73-year-old and his codefendants of running illegal gambling, loan-sharking and extortion rackets across the region.
A parade of witnesses has described the threats that the mob used to conduct its business, but jurors haven't seen or heard evidence of actual violence.
The defense is expected to rest its case on Wednesday, and jurors will return in January for closing arguments and deliberations.