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Chief judge frustrated with alleged jury misconduct

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Wednesday was Day Two of evidentiary hearings relative to alleged jury misconduct in one of the largest drug trafficking cases in Guam history. Putting her face in her palms, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood was clearly frustrated with the alleged jury misconduct presented before her.  

"Do I have to tell the jurors you're going to go to jail? Do you think that will scare the jurors?" she asked as she looked upon Juror Number One this afternoon. When Gatewood asked why the juror discussed the Mateo Sardoma drug trial in phone conversations with a female inmate, he said it was a result of stupidity and responded, "The words came out of my mouth."

On six different occasions the juror spoke with the inmate about the case disclosing witnesses' testimony. According to Pay-Tel records from last October, the juror stated, "I don't think the government has sh*t on them even though I think they're guilty. Shoddy police work." But today, he couldn't recall making such a statement.

While defense Attorney Curtis Van De Veld requested to continue questioning the juror under oath, the juror's lawyer, Georgette Bello Concepcion, opposed the request accusing the defense of harassment and going on a fishing expedition. Van de Veld quickly defended the line of questioning, saying his client has a right to have a thorough review and said Bello was "irrelevant", which sparked heated debate between Van de Veld, Concepcion, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Black.

Concepcion, who objected to being called irrelevant, noted that her client has been cooperative, adding, "There's nothing he did wrong but disobey this court's order not to talk about the case."

Black added, "We had a four-month fair trial. The burden is squarely on the defense to show some way that he's been prejudiced. We continue to waste our time to write question after question. This is pure monotony!"

Van de Veld defended his actions on behalf of his client asking the court to order Black not to make personal attacks against him.

The judge noted that she expected civility in her courtroom and reiterated the importance of this case to all of the parties, most especially defendant Sardoma, who faces life in prison in one of the biggest drug conspiracy trials in the island's history.

The debate was only put to rest after the repeated pounding of Gatewood's gavel - an action she admits she's only executed three or four times in her 20 years on the bench to return order to her courtroom.

While she noted the juror's cooperation throughout the evidentiary hearing, Gatewood could still hold him in contempt of court.

Before she makes that decision, the judge wants to listen to the juror's recorded conversations with the female inmate.

Meanwhile, a fourth juror took the stand this afternoon. But after brief testimony, Gatewood said she didn't believe there was an evidence of jury misconduct.

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