Juror In Corrine Brown Case Is Dismissed; Deliberations Must Start Over

May 10, 2017

Credit Ryan Benk / WJCT News

An alternate is being seated in the Corrine Brown federal corruption trial after a juror raised questions about comments made by another juror.

After 12 hours of deliberations over the last two days, jurors returned Wednesday morning to resume weighing the fraud and tax evasion charges against former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown but the deliberations were delayed because of concerns raised by one of the jurors.

That juror contacted the court Tuesday night, saying that she was concerned because there was another juror talking about a "higher power." The judge spoke to attorneys from both sides and decided to seal the courtroom Wednesday morning to interview the juror who complained to see if any actions need to be taken.

Over the last two weeks, prosecutors have tried to convince the jury that Brown, a Democrat who represented the Florida district that included Jacksonville from 1993 to 2016, funneled money from an unregistered Virginia charity into her personal accounts.

She has pleaded not guilty, blaming her former chief of staff Ronnie Simmons for stealing the money.

There are no indications the jury has reached verdicts on any of the 22 charges against Brown.

The jurors, looking visibly weary, told the judge just before 5 p.m. Tuesday that after a full day of deliberations, they wanted to adjourn for the day and resume their work Wednesday morning. The judge again urged them not to speak about the case with anyone and told them to be back in court at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

At least two of the jurors appeared noticeably frustrated.

The jurors, who include seven men and five women -- eight white, three black and one Hispanic -- spent nearly four hours behind closed doors Monday before being dismissed for the night and returning Tuesday morning to begin deliberations just before 9 a.m.

Six members of the jury were spotted during a break by a court observer, who said they appeared "relaxed and chatty," were cracking jokes among themselves and did not look stressed.

Legal analysts told News4Jax that the longer the jury deliberates, the more likely the outcome will be in Brown's favor, whether that's a hung jury or an acquittal.  

"They've been given a big hill to climb," said attorney Randy Reep, who has been one of the legal analysts for News4Jax during the trial. "It's not surprising that it's going to take a long time to sift through all that, particularly if you're going to do it diligently."

Brown supporters who have been at the courthouse every day said they also believe the longer the wait for the verdicts the better, because it means the jury is combing through the evidence and is not ready to make a quick judgment.

The jury could find Brown guilty on any or all of the charges, but each verdict must be unanimous or a mistrial will be declared on that charge, which could lead to a retrial.