Hearing held for alleged jury misconduct in federal drug case - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Hearing held for alleged jury misconduct in federal drug case

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - A half-million dollars: that's how much the federal government could have to fork out if alleged jury misconduct results in a new trial for one of the largest drug trafficking cases in Guam history.

For the first time in her 30 years of practicing law, District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood is addressing allegations of jury misconduct.

"How could I make myself clearer?" she asked, as she looked upon Juror Number Seven, the first of four former jurors in the Mateo Sardoma case accused of jury misconduct.

Gatewood is referring to specific instructions she gave repeatedly throughout the five-month trial cautioning jurors not to speak at all about the case to anyone including fellow jurors.

Juror Number Seven took the stand today and said she was merely joking when she wrote a Facebook post before jury selection that read "Jury duty why in the world would the District Court of Guam choose me to be a part of jury duty. Oh boy! So not looking forward to tomorrow. You're guilty son. Lmao".

The woman explained that she picked up the slang phrase from hanging around with military friends and watching Judge Hatchett.

She was also questioned about other Facebook posts but said those were related to personal matters not the trial.

The juror did admit that communication with fellow jurors about their lunch plans were in violation of the court's instructions.

When Gatewood asked why the juror failed to disclose her friendship with an employee at the U.S. Attorney's Office during jury selection, the juror said she wasn't aware that's where her friend worked until a couple of months into the trial. She also noted that she didn't believe the relationship would affect her ability to be fair and impartial.

Clearly frustrated with the allegations of juror misconduct, the judge stressed the importance of all jurors taking their civic duty seriously saying the U.S. Attorney's Office and most importantly the defendant must know that they will have a fair trial.

Gatewood adding she is working with the 9th Circuit's Jury Committee on the issue as jury misconduct is becoming a problem with other judges as well.

Next up on the stand - Juror Number One, who not only allegedly acted inappropriately as a juror, but was caught on tape speaking about the case with a female inmate who resides in the same facility as defendant Maria Edrosa.

He told the judge he wasn't really close with the female inmate that he visited at the Department of Corrections, but said he would take her children to visit their mother in prison.

The juror said he was merely trying to make the female inmate "malagu" when he told her his mouth watered after seeing the crystal methamphetamine during the trial saying he was just teasing her, but didn't mean it.

The conversation was recorded at DepCor and the juror went on to tell the woman that he went out and bought a plate of Ice.

He told the court that it was his way of telling the inmate that if she couldn't handle the temptation for the drug behind bars, how would she be able to handle it when released.

He denied being under the influence of alcohol or narcotics during the trial and said he has never been dependent on drugs.

Despite his multiple conversations with the inmate about the trial, the jury testified that it did not influence his decisions.

Also called to the stand today was Juror Number Nine who admits she became Facebook friends with Juror Number Seven during the Sardoma trial jury selection. Juror Number Nine contends she did not engage in talks of the case outside the jury room, but did communicate via WhatsApp with Juror Number Seven almost daily to give her a wakeup call for court.

The court will continue the evidentiary hearing for Juror Number One on Wednesday afternoon. 

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