Lodi Terrorist Suspect Found Guilty -- But Juror Reneges

April 28, 2006

Meanwhile, a jury was unable to come to a decision regarding his 48-year-old father Umer Hyatt. But one of the jury members in Hamid’s case, 44-year-old Arcelia Lopez, came out today saying she was coerced into her decision. I think this speaks to the problems in our legal system with jurors being influenced by others. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Juror tells of pressure to convict terrorism suspect
She tells judge in Lodi case she regrets her guilty vote and accuses jury foreman of misconduct -- other panelists deny it

By Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sacramento -- One of 12 jurors who convicted a 23-year-old Lodi man Tuesday on charges that he trained for holy war disavowed the verdict late Thursday, alleging that she was bullied into a guilty finding amid a pattern of misconduct by fellow panelists.

"I never once throughout the deliberation process and the reading of the verdict believed Hamid Hayat to be guilty," Arcelia Lopez, a 44-year-old school nurse from Sacramento, said in a 2,000-word affidavit filed to the U.S. District Court in Sacramento by the defense just after 9 p.m.

Among other accusations, Lopez said the jury's foreman, near the start of the two-month trial, "gestured as if he was tying a rope around his neck" and said, "Hang him." Lopez said that the gesture was repeated throughout the trial and that she believed it was a reference to Hayat.

Hayat's attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, said Lopez's allegations should prompt U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. to grant the 23-year-old man a new trial. Hayat faces 30 to 39 years in prison at a July 14 sentencing.

Prosecutors could not be reached for comment at the late hour.

But one juror, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the accusations "a complete outrage" borne of "juror regret." The juror said Lopez changed her vote to guilty Monday, which at first made the juror uncomfortable.

"When she decided to change her vote, which was completely under her own will, I asked her flat-out to her face, in front of everybody, if she was changing her mind based on her own free will and the evidence presented (to) the jury," the juror said. "She said yes."

The juror, who declined to address specific misconduct allegations, continued: "We argued as jurors do -- that's deliberation. If she saw that as pressure, it was in her own mind. I don't think other jurors saw it that way."

Attempts to reach some jurors were unsuccessful. A few declined to comment.

The jury of six men and six women, after deliberating for nine days, found Hayat guilty of providing material support to terrorists by training at a camp in Pakistan and returning to the United States to await attack orders. He also was convicted of three counts of lying to the FBI.

Lopez, the final holdout for acquittal, acknowledged in Thursday's affidavit that, when polled by a clerk Tuesday, she "responded to the court that I agreed with the verdict."

"I deeply regret my decision," Lopez said in the affidavit, adding that she cried several times during deliberations and, on Saturday, sought treatment for migraine headaches at an emergency room.
James Wedick, a former FBI agent and the lead defense investigator, contacted Lopez on Wednesday and later asked her if she would allow the defense to prepare an affidavit.

Vikram Amar, a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, said the judge is likely to investigate the allegations.

"In general, changes of heart by a juror are not a basis for undoing a verdict unless there are specific influences he or she can point to, like a bribe or a threat or some improper evidence that was looked at," Amar said.

Also on Tuesday, a separate jury of eight women and four men failed to agree on whether to convict Hayat's father, 48-year-old Umer Hayat, on two counts of lying. Prosecutors have not decided whether to retry Hayat, who is due back in court for a bail hearing today.

The dual trials in Sacramento centered on the FBI's videotaped interrogations of the Hayats in June at the bureau's office in the capital. The younger Hayat, already on the FBI's radar because of comments he made to an informant, had just returned from a two-year trip to Pakistan.

Prosecutors described the confessions as clear proof of guilt, but defense attorneys said the men have no experience with terrorist camps and were manipulated into telling agents whatever they wanted to hear.

Lopez said jurors inappropriately talked about media reports regarding the case. In particular, she said, jurors expressed interest in finding out what dismissed juror Andrea Clabaugh, 39, of Carmichael said to reporters March 22. Clabaugh had said the evidence to that point had not convinced her of Hayat's guilt.

One juror "suggested The Chronicle or the (Sacramento) Bee," Lopez recalled.
Burrell repeatedly admonished the jurors to avoid exposure to media reports about the case. Such exposure can be grounds to overturn a verdict.

Lopez said the foreman, Joseph Cote, 64, of Folsom, made offensive comments about Hayat during deliberations. She quoted him as saying, "If you put them in the same costume, then they all look alike."

The foreman sent a note last Friday to Burrell complaining that one juror "does not seem to fully comprehend the deliberation process." Lopez said this was a reference to her belief that Hayat was innocent.

Lopez said Cote "personally attacked me repeatedly as someone who couldn't process the information and who just couldn't see that (Hayat) was guilty, because he thought I didn't have the mental capacity to understand."

She said she didn't even know about Cote's note until Burrell responded in writing Monday morning, asking jurors to "please continue your deliberations."

Lopez said another juror, Rebecca Harris, 58, of Clements (San Joaquin County), brought in a long, typewritten note Monday and read it to the panel. Harris complained that her health was failing and, Lopez said, blamed it on her.

"The message of the statement was clearly to put pressure on me to change my vote," Lopez said in the affidavit. "She said that she herself couldn't take it anymore and that if I didn't change my vote, she would consider getting off the jury herself due to the stress."

In the end, "I explained to the other jurors that it was OK that I disagreed and that we did not have to have a unanimous verdict," Lopez said in the affidavit. "But they did not all agree. They continued to pressure me to change my vote. At this point I was under so much stress and pressure that I agreed to change my vote."

Alternate juror Montell Hall, 69, of Roseville, who did not sit through deliberations, said Thursday that the panel followed the rules when he was present.

"If there was any (misconduct), I would have been the one to do it," the semiretired engineer and consultant joked. "I was very outspoken, but I didn't talk about the trial (during testimony)."

Hall said he, too, would have voted for conviction.

"I was absolutely sure in my own mind that he was guilty," Hall said. "Mostly it was the confession that made me sure, and the way he acted during the confession. ... The kid was his own worst enemy."