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Day One Raniere Trial [May 7]: Juror’s Wife Has Cancer; He’s Excused

I plan to cover the trial of Keith Raniere by reporting the big events as quickly as possible on the day of the trial and the following day get into more detail of events that occurred.

For the more in depth coverage, I will be quoting from the transcripts.

The first day of trial had numerous important moments.

The first thing of interest to me, at least, was an issue that occurred before the trial began before the jury. It was about the jury, relative to the excusing of one juror.

It is interesting to me because it shows a little about how the role of jurors are perceived in the modern legal system and illustrates the importance of hearing both sides of a story before rushing to judgment.

***

THE COURT: We have two juror issues. The first  juror issue is that Alternate No. 4 advised Mr. Reccoppa that she’s taking three summer courses at Queensborough Community College and she provided a fee card that she paid yesterday for these courses. She’s not a matriculated student. These are nondegree courses. Before I talk to her about her educational pursuits, I thought I would talk to the parties. I plan to tell her, unless you object, that she’s obligated to be a juror in this case, she can’t sign up for courses after Proceedings she is told that she’s a possible juror and after she’s told that she’d been selected as a juror. Is there any objection to that?

AGNIFILO: No. I think that’s right.

PENZA: We agree.

THE COURT: Okay. Next, we have Juror No. 9. There’s no note, but what did Juror No. 9 tell you?

THE COURTROOM DEPUTY: That his wife is — gave him a hard time, he can’t serve, he’s — mentally, he can’t think about this case anymore. He thought he could serve when he did the interview, but he can’t do it any longer, he’s under a lot of pressure at home.

AGNIFILO: “The wife is giving me a hard time” excuse —

THE COURTROOM DEPUTY: At home.

AGNIFILO: Yes?

PENZA: I’m sorry, I just can’t — I have been thinking about their old juror numbers and I’m just having trouble picturing exactly —

THE COURT: What juror number is that?

THE COURTROOM DEPUTY: Nine is 57.

PENZA: Off the top of my head —

AGNIFILO: It’s not the Ramadan juror. We’ll get our notes.

PENZA: If we can review our notes —

AGNIFILO: Yeah, yeah.  Juror No. 9, I can’t picture him, though.

THE COURT: Well, let me cut to the chase here. I can bring the juror in, he can tell me his story, and then I can say, well, we’re going to get started and at the end of the day, you know, if he — if he has to come in tomorrow and then let me know how he’s doing, that’s all. I mean, I just can’t let jurors out because their wife doesn’t want them to serve on the jury.

AGNIFILO: I agree with you.

THE COURT: I just can’t do it. And if he decides to be ill, then we’ll deal with him being ill, but the fact that he’s now saying it’s inconvenient or his wife doesn’t like that he’s on a jury — I mean, I’m inclined to ask him have you been discussing this case with your wife, that would be grounds to strike him, but, you know, I’m going to have him sit — if that happens, he will be a juror for the next six weeks sitting downstairs because, you know, he’s got a choice: He can sit downstairs at that point or he can be a juror.

AGNIFILO: My concern, Judge, is if you ask him that question and he sees that as the exit, he will say, yeah, I —

THE COURT: If he volunteers it, I will let you know.

AGNIFILO: Okay.

THE COURT: I think you make good point. Is there anything else on that?

PENZA: No, Your Honor.

AGNIFILO: No.

 

The Court discussed other legal matters with the attorneys then said:

So what I’m now going to do is I’m going to go talk  to these two jurors very briefly and then we’ll start.

AGNIFILO: Very good, Judge.

PENZA: Thank you, Your Honor.

(The discussion occurred in the robing room with the Court and was sealed by order of the Court. Counsel not present.

Then the judge came back and said in open court, the jury was not present.

THE COURT: We’ll take a sidebar.

Everyone can be seated.

(Sidebar conference.)

THE COURT: With regard to Alternate No. 4, I advised her that she would have to serve.

With regard to Juror No. 9, he’s unemployed, as you know, he lives in Queens, but he goes up to the Bronx where his wife, from whom he’s separated, is living with their six-year-old son. His wife has stage 4 cancer and she’s receiving chemotherapy and, when she’s in chemotherapy, she’s unable to pick up their son from school — he is six years old. And so my question of him was ‘why didn’t you just tell us this because you would have been excused if you had told us this before you were selected to be on the jury.’ I think he’s under a lot of stress. I tried to explain to him that this creates a problem. He was very apologetic.

I can’t believe that he would be able to concentrate on this case if he remained a juror, plus there’s the question of his wife’s extremely serious illness and his son’s safety and well-being, and so I’m inclined, unless you object, to excuse him and to replace Juror No. 9 with Alternate No. 1.

Is there any objection to that?

AGNIFILO: I think that’s right.

PENZA: No objection.

THE COURT: Okay. That’s what we will do. I will put it on the record that Juror No. 9 has been excused and is being replaced by Alternate No. 1.

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Frank Parlato

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