MANHATTAN (CN) – A juror today in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, accused in two U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa, asked to be “exchanged” for an alternate because of feeling “attacked” for an opinion that is “not going to change.” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan denied the defense’s request for a mistrial and the prosecution’s request for an inquiry with the juror. When defense attorney Peter Quijano said he could not consent to the substitution, Kaplan called in the jury to reread the portion of their instructions emphasizing that they weigh their opinions dispassionately, decide the case individually, and keep an open mind in weighing the evidence.
Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial, is accused of conspiring and participating in truck bombings of U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed more than 200 people and injured thousands on Aug. 7, 1998.
Jurors began deliberating on Wednesday last week, and immediately requested some of the most contested evidence, including findings from an FBI investigation of a suspected bomb factory.
Prosecutors said the search linked Ghailani to the compound through chemical residue, a fingerprint, and a detonator recovered from a locked armoire.
The defense countered that the investigation was a case study in how “not to conduct a search,” with evidence bagged together, no protective clothing worn, and the house left unsecure when another suspect’s Suzuki Samurai was spotted by its open door.
Monday began with a juror writing a note in broken English, pleading with, “Your Honor, Judge Kaplan,” to seek a substitution because of tension during deliberations.
“I feel am been [sic] attacked for conclusion [sic],” wrote the anonymous juror, who signed the note with a number.
His or her conclusion, the juror wrote, was “not going to change.”
Judge Kaplan said, “I’m inclined to determine that there’s nothing in this note to determine that there’s personal disharmony [between jurors].” Judge Kaplan added that there might be “strenuous disagreement,” however.
After inspecting the note with his co-counsel, Quijano asked Kaplan to give specific instructions, “if the juror thinks they’re being pressed improperly.”
Prosecutor Michael Farbiarz countered: “This is one juror’s impression.”
Both parties settled on having Kaplan repeat a portion of the charging transcript to the jurors, which stated: “Each of you must decide the case for yourself. But you should do so only after considering the case with your fellow jurors, and you should not hesitate to change an opinion if you’re convinced that it’s erroneous.
“Your verdict, whether it’s guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous, but you are not bound to surrender your honest convictions solely because of the opinions of other jurors.
“Discuss and weigh your respective opinions dispassionately, without regard to sympathy, without regard to prejudice or favor for either side, and come to the conclusion that in your good conscience appears from the evidence to be in accord with the truth.”
Ghailani faces life imprisonment if he is convicted. Judge Kaplan has noted that he may be held as an enemy combatant even if he is acquitted.