Gossip is like heroin, especially in the South. Behind closed doors, the woman they called Flipper expressed romantic yearnings about the man named Keith. That was too delicious a morsel not to be shared by email among staffers in the U.S. Attorney's office in Alabama. Funny how those silly remarks can turn up later as evidence in a scandal.
Flipper, who got her nickname because she did back-flips for the entertainment of her fellow jurors, was a 26-year-old gymnastics coach and self-described "army brat" named Katie Langer. After the trial, which led to the conviction of Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, she told the Associated Press how the jurors had bonded with federal marshals and courthouse personnel. "You're 18 jurors [12 regular and six alternates] thrown together with the people who are there to help you out. We really did get a long. By the end we looked forward to going. We were bringing pictures in of our families," she said. She asked one marshal if Keith, a member of the prosecution team, was married.
Less than two weeks after the verdict, she told the Montgomery Advertiser that she would be meeting with federal prosecutors to discuss the judicial process of the trial. "I'm just trying to get some questions answered about the process," she said. "I would like to hear the attorneys' perspective." She said she wanted to go to law school. Evidence suggests that neither Langer nor others thought the rules about inappropriate contact were worth taking seriously.
No word on whether Langer and Keith went out on a date. But Langer's other extracurricular activities are referenced in current issue of Time, which obtained documents from Tamarah T. Grimes, a legal aide in the U.S. Attorney's office in Alabama:
"Grimes' last year also gave DoJ additional e-mails detailing previously undisclosed contacts between prosecutors and members of the Siegelman jury....
"The DoJ conducted its own inquiry into some of Grimes' claims, and wrote a report dismissing them as inconsequential. But the report shows that investigators did not question U.S. marshals or jurors who had allegedly been in touch with the prosecution.
" A key prosecution e-mail describes how jurors repeatedly contacted the government's legal team during the trial to express, among other things, one juror's romantic interest in a member of the prosecution team. 'The jurors kept sending out messages' via U.S. marshals, the e-mail says, identifying a particular juror as 'very interested' in a person who had sat at the prosecution table in court."
The Time article supplements a story I first reported in HuffingtonPost, concerning the strong evidence of jury tampering by Langer and jury foreman Sam Hendrix, the only jurors who spoke freely with the press. But it doesn't capture the ugliness surrounding the deliberations among a jury of seven whites and five blacks. Purported e-mails between Langer and Hendrix, plus the sworn testimony of other jurors, describes a situation completely at odds with the tales of camaraderie that Langer and Hendrix gave to the media. A few examples from Langer:
gov & pastor [i.e. defendant Richard Scrushy] up s--t creek.
good thing no one likes them anyway. all public officials
r scum; especially this 1. pastor is reall a piece of work
...they missed before, but we won't
...also, keep working on [juror number] 30...
will update u on other meeting
Earlier that same evening she wrote:
Judge really helping with jurors
still having difficulties with #30
Keep pushing on ur side.
Did not understand your thoughts on statute
But received links.
Those purported messages were sent on Sunday June 25, 2006, three days after Judge Mark Fuller, informed that jurors were deadlocked, sent them back to continue their deliberations. Hendrix and Langer's private, and illegal, contacts had begun almost a month earlier. On May 29, 2006, more than two weeks before the jury was allowed to begin deliberations, Katie wrote to Hendrix:
I agree some of the kounts r
confusing 2 our friends.
Chek text.30/38 still off trac.
Here's how one juror, in a sworn affidavit, describes the jury when it was deadlocked:
"Five for guilty, five for not guilty, and two undecided. The jurors 100% not guilty were [redacted]. Two jurors had hostile words at each other and at this time, the foreman [Hendrix] slipped a note to the judge without our knowledge and told him that we were deadlock.
[Hendrix's private note said that some on the panel were being "lackadaisical."]
"The judge said that he could keep us until the next 4th of July and we needed to have a unanimous decision. Our whole objective changed at that point after nine days, we felt he applied extreme pressure on us to get us to make a unanimous decision. We all decided to agree with whoever was in charge so we could leave and go home. I told everybody I was through deliberating - do whatever you want to do. Just tell me which way I should vote so I can go home. The stake of the two men's lives were totally irrelevant at this point for all of us, and we had a more pressing objective in mind - just to leave and go home for good. We did not vote our conviction. We voted based on the pressure applied by the judge."
As reported here last July, Judge Mark Fuller took a variety of unethical steps to prevent the defendants, or anyone else, from reviewing the evidence of jury tampering. The additional information reported in Time shows how the Justice Department in Washington, in addition to Judge Fuller, refused to examine evidence of illicit juror contacts. Along with the other revelations, it suggests that the rot within the Justice Department runs very, very deep.