Monday, October 22, 2007

Hung Jury in Holy Land Foundation Terror Financing Trial

The original chairman and director of endowments of the Holy Land Foundation was found not guilty of supporting terrorism by sending money to charity committees controlled by Hamas.

The jury in the terrorism-financing trial was unable to reach unanimous decisions on three of the six defendants, U.S. District Judge Joe Fish said Monday as he unsealed their verdicts.

On two others, they were able to reach unanimous decisions on some of the counts — including those charges against Mohammad El-Mezain, the original chairman of what was once the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. On only one defendant were they able to reach unanimous decisions on all counts.

The judge is now beginning to announce the jury’s verdict on each defendant. In all, the jury must make 197 decisions on guilt or innocence this morning.
There were 197 separate decisions that had to be made by the jury relating to the guilt of the six defendants on multiple charges. The complexity of the case definitely played a role in the outcome, which related to the HLF funneling aid to the Islamic terrorist group Hamas. In effect, HLF was a front group for Hamas and which used its charitable fundraising to support terrorism overseas.

A retrial is most likely on the disputed counts, and one has to suspect that the holdout during the deliberations (which required a reading of an Allen charge) may have been to blame for the outcome.

More details about the verdicts, and even the jury verdict read is cause for controversy because not all the jurors apparently agreed on even those counts:
One official – Mufid Abdulqader, a top Holy Land fundraiser and former Dallas public works supervisor — was found not guilty on all counts. Two other officials — Mohammad El-Mezain, the Holy Land's original chairman and endowments director, and Abdulrahman Odeh, the foundation's New Jersey representative, were acquitted on most of the charges. The jury was hung on the others. But when polled, three jurors told the judge that they did not agree with the verdicts, prompting the judge to send them back to the jury room. "Your verdict must be unanimous and it's apparent to me from the answers of three members of the jury in respect to my question that the verdicts that I read earlier do not rep the unanimous view of the jury," Judge Fish said.
The possibility of Judge Fish calling a mistrial is quite high, and that would favor the prosecution. Such a decision would grant the prosecution the ability to retry the case. In all likelyhood, they would streamline the case and reduce the counts involved. While that might mean lesser sentences, it might also result in the jury coming to a unanimous decision - guilty verdicts.

Another possibility is that depending on how the jury polled on individual counts, the prosecutors might attempt to offer plea deals to the defendants (say that the jury polled 10-2 or 11-1 guilty on a count). Similarly, the defense might opt to take their chances if they were found not guilty by a similar margin.

WFAA continues to provide new details and information about the verdicts.
The acquittals are not final until the judge verifies them. Depending on what the jurors say after returning to the courtroom, the judge could declare it a hung jury or order them back for further deliberations.
Considering that Judge Fish ordered the jurors back to deliberate and come to unanimous decision on various counts, one has to wonder about the verdicts on various counts - both those that favor the defendants and those that favored the prosecution - increasing the likelyhood of the declaration of a mistrial.

Another what??? moment via Hot Air.
When jurors came into the courtroom earlier Monday, the judge read the verdicts, but three jurors said those findings were not correct. U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish sent then back to resolve the differences.

The jury forewoman said she was surprised by the three jurors' actions.

"When we voted, there was no issue in the vote," she said. "No one spoke up any different. I really don't understand where it is coming from. All 12 made that decision."

The actions left government officials stunned and dissension among the jurors, NBC 5 reported.
What a mess.

A mistrial has been declared for five of six defendants in the case of a Muslim charity charged with financing Middle Eastern terrorists.

This is just the start of trying to dissect what happened and what went wrong with this case.

The repercussions of the failure to secure a verdict of any kind will ripple across to other terrorism-funding prosecutions across the country. There are serious lessons to be learned on how to prosecute these kinds of cases, and prosecutors must figure out what they did right and wrong - in order to secure convictions down the road.

NBC5i reports:
The judge had announced that Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development fundraiser Mufid Abdulqader was acquitted on all counts, and two co-defendants -- former chairman Mohammed El-Mezain and the group's New Jersey representative, Abdulrahman Odeh -- were acquitted on most counts.

The verdicts questioned by the jurors were on charges against the foundation, as well as former chief executive Shukri Abu Baker and former chairman Ghassan Elashi.

Here's the verdict in .pdf format (via Charles at LGF). Charles further points out the following breakdown on the verdict:
The jury has found Defendant Mohammad El-Mezain NOT GUILTY on Counts 2-32. Chief Judge Fish has declared a mistrial as to Count 1 for this defendant and on all counts for each of the remaining defendants.

There's been quite a bit of reaction to Judge Fish's declaration of mistrial in this case. Debbie Schlussel is crowing about how she expected this, and blames the Justice Department for half-hearted prosecutions years after the malfeasance is uncovered and then pushing bloated cases into trial and overwhelming jurors with too much information.

CAIR, of course, is gloating over the mistrial, as though it somehow exonerates their cronies at Holy Land Foundation.

It does not. There is simply too many linkages and ties between Hamas and Holy Land Foundation to be coincidence. Hamas uses HLF for fundraising and getting its message out, and CAIR knows damned well that they're shilling for terrorists.

This was not a stunning defeat, but it definitely is a wakeup call for the Justice Department to do a far better job prosecuting these cases than it has up til now.

This is yet another example as to why you cannot simply trust the law enforcement approach to solely defend the nation against terrorism and terrorist attacks. HLF was busy providing aid and comfort to enemies that seek to do America and its interests harm and because all the members of a jury could not find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a mistrial had to be declared.

That's not the same thing as innocence. A better case in chief from the prosecution should be able to convince a jury of the guilt of these individuals and the HLF. The prosecutors better get cracking.

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