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Juror in Sheldon Silver Trial: Defense “Insulted Our Intelligence”

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Sheldon Silver leaves the courthouse in Lower Manhattan during his trial.
Sheldon Silver leaves the courthouse in Lower Manhattan during his trial.

In City & State, reporter Zack Fink takes readers “inside the jury room” during the Sheldon Silver federal corruption trial.

On Nov. 30, a jury found the former Lower East Side Assemblyman guilty on all charges. The story is based on the account of a single anonymous juror, “a married mother of two, and a Manhattan resident with an Ivy League education.”  Fink refers to the juror as “Jane” for the purposes of the story (not her real name):

Jane told City & State that the prosecution team, led by Carrie Cohen of the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, “laid out the case impeccably.” That’s an enormous compliment considering how convoluted the evidence seemed at times. In contrast, (Silver defense attorney Steven) Molo made Jane feel uncomfortable – he stared at people perhaps a few seconds too long, rendering the sustained eye contact unsettling. The defense “didn’t present facts,” she told me, and it was aimed at trying to “fool people.” She concluded that the entire defense presentation seemed phony. “We are not going to fall for that,” she added, with a snap of her head. “Molo talked down to us and insulted our intelligence.” Pressed for a more introspective assessment of why she came to her conclusions about Silver’s guilt, Jane paused for a minute or so. “Somebody needs to be made an example of,” she said, finally. “We don’t let people off the hook for crimes they commit because they happen to live in a quote-unquote bad neighborhood. Why would we let him (Silver) off the hook? He was lying in the press. And he was dishonest in his motives for governing. White collar crime cannot be held to a different standard.”

When deliberations began, Jane recalled, the panel was, more-or-less, split equally between those who felt Silver was guilty and those who were leaning in the direction of an acquittal. After about 90 minutes of discussion, however, there were only two jurors favoring a “not guilty” verdict.

In the article, the juror talks about her successful efforts to persuade one of the holdouts, Arlene Phillips, to change her mind. You can read more about that here. Silver is, of course, appealing his conviction. Post-trial motions are due Jan. 18. Sentencing will take place April 13. According to Fink, “oral arguments would be heard by a three-judge panel from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.” That might not happen for about a year.

One other newsworthy item from the story — All 12 jurors met privately with defense attorneys right after the verdict:

The defense team had opted not to call any witnesses, an aggressive strategy intended to send a message to the jury that the prosecutors had simply failed to prove their case. In the meeting, the defense asked if anything would have swayed them toward an acquittal. Some jurors responded that they wanted to hear from Silver himself. Others said they had hoped to hear from character witnesses who could attest to Silver’s lifetime of public service. And at least one juror asked why Silver’s chief of staff in the Assembly, Judy Rapfogel, never testified. Her name was invoked several times during the trial, and she was on the prosecution’s list of potential witnesses, but was never called to the stand.

Silver was forced to step down from his seat in the New York State Assembly after the conviction. Gov. Cuomo has not yet called a special election for the vacancy in the 65th Assembly District. If he chooses not to do so, Lower Manhattan will be without representation in the assembly until January of 2017.

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