Update: According to the Associated Press, despite the recent announcement of a mistrial, the Senate Ethics Committee intends to resume its preliminary inquiry into Senator Menendez.
The Washington Post reports that the bribery trial of Senator Robert Menendez ended in a mistrial on Thursday. After nine weeks of testimony, jurors were unable to come to a unanimous decision and were "hopelessly deadlocked" on the corruption charges against the lawmaker.
The Senator has been fighting 18 counts of alleged corruption. This is seen as a victory for him and a setback for the Justice Department, who are trying their best to combat public corruption.
The Post reports that prosecutors had asked the judge to inform jurors that they could reach a verdict on individual counts of the indictment. This would provide the jurors with a way of reaching verdicts on individual counts rather than having to agree that he committed all 18. However, the judge rejected this suggestion, claiming that such a decision would be a "slippery slope of coercion."
Menendez defense lawyer Abbe Lowell told the judge that he thinks a mistrial should be declared.
“They are telling us in the clearest terms possible that they have done their job as diligent jurors. I think we have a real hung jury,’’ said Lowell, according to the Washington Post.
The jury encompassed 7 women and 5 men, who began deliberating about the counts last week. They were very sharply divided about what to do and remained in their camps. They couldn't come to a decision. As a result, they sent a note on Monday saying that they couldn't reach a verdict. Judge Walls set the panel home that day, requesting that they come back after a good night rest to try again. Again, they were unable to make a decision.
"We have each tried to look at this case from different viewpoints but still feel strongly in our positions, nor are we willing to move away from our strong convictions," the jury wrote, according to CNN.
CNN reports that prosecutors did not announce whether they will refile charges against Menendez. However, a delay will help the Democrats, who worry that Republican Governor Chris Christie could select the senator's replacement if he resigns or is removed from the Senate.
Menendez faces very serious charges, which include conspiracy, bribery, and fraud. He is accused of accepting more than $600,000 in political contributions, hotel suites, and free rides in private jets from a wealthy ophthalmologist in exchange for political favors.
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