The presiding judge declared the mistrial Thursday after interviewing all 12 jurors involved in the case. That could give USA prosecutors pause and could also shift public opinion in favor of Menendez, said Brigid Callahan Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair University.
In their note to the court the 12 jurors - seven men and five women - wrote: "We can not reach a unanimous decision.Nor are we willing to move away from our strong convictions". Even after continually reviewing the evidence, they remained deadlocked by Thursday. Neither took the witness stand during the 11-week trial, which included more than 55 witnesses, from Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to plane pilots.
Menendez's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, gave his opening statement on September 6, 2017 in the trial, where he argued that Menendez and Melgen were friends, so the exchanges between them can be reduced to friendship rather than corruption and political bribes as the charges suggest they were.
The federal bribery trial of Democratic Sen.
A mistrial would aid Menendez by not subjecting him to pressure to step down in the event of a conviction. Both were found guilty by juries to later have those convictions overturned because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that raised the bar on what is considered public corruption. Federal prosecutors would then decide whether to bring another case against him. But a similarly lengthy trial next year would cost Menendez considerable time off the campaign trail and present voters with media accounts re-airing the charges.
"Too many people tried to convict him without his day in court", said Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney. New Jersey is a pretty blue state - Republicans haven't won a U.S. Senate race in the Garden State since before Watergate - and no credible GOP contenders have expressed an interest in next year's contest.
Judge William Walls declared the mistrial Thursday.
Walls could instruct the jury that they can reach a verdict on some counts but not others.
Justice Department prosecutors had accused Menendez and Melgen, a wealth Florida ophthalmologist, of engaging in a bribery scheme that lasted seven years, trading gifts and trips for government favors.
The judge and lawyers in Sen. An attorney for co-defendant Salomon Melgen asked Walls to poll the jury individually to confirm they are deadlocked.
Prosecutors had asked the judge to issue a clarifying instruction to the panel, telling jurors they could reach verdicts on individual counts in the indictment, even if they can't find agreement on all the counts.
Deliberations began November 6.
At the time, Walls told them to go home for the day, eat a good meal and get some rest, and try again in the morning.More news: Italy fails to qualify for World Cup after draw with Sweden
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