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Noriega Defense Wants to Question Jurors About Pressure

April 24, 1992

MIAMI (AP) _ Manuel Noriega’s defense today said some jurors may have used improper pressure tactics by citing God and President Bush in a successful effort to change a holdout’s vote.

A motion filed with U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler asked for permission to interview the jurors about statements they made in post-trial news interviews.

The jury deliberated five days before reaching guilty verdicts April 9 on eight of 10 drug and racketeering counts against the deposed Panamanian leader.

On the third day, they had indicated deliberations were stalled, but they reached a verdict after the judge asked them to continue.

″The method by which the jurors achieved unanimity, however, resulted in the use of outside influences,″ said a motion filed by defense attorney Jon May.

The holdout, Bernadine Cooper, told other jurors she believed Noriega was innocent and would not change her mind, his motion said.

Several jurors then prayed with her at the hotel where the panel was sequestered, said the defense, citing news reports.

One juror, Jean Hallisey, reportedly told Ms. Cooper the panel could not remain deadlocked, according to news interviews.

″The whole world is waiting for this verdict. President Bush is waiting for this verdict,″ the defense motion quoted Mrs. Hallisey as saying.

Ms. Cooper changed her mind on the last day of deliberations, according to news interviews.

Hoeveler is on vacation and scheduled for judicial conferences for two more weeks, according to his office. It was not known when he might rule on the motion.

Paul Rothstein, a law professor at George Washington University, said the defense may get its interviews, but the issue seemed unlikely to overturn Noriega’s verdict.

″The law is extremely reluctant to open questions of what happened with the jury during deliberations,″ he said.

Jurors citing God or even the president to another juror would not fit the requirement that the defense show outside influence, Rothstein said.

Noriega remains in the Metropolitan Correctional Center outside Miami awaiting his July 10 sentencing, in which he faces a maximum 120 years in prison. He also faces a trial on marijuana-smuggling charges in Tampa.

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