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Wecht waits another day

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On one of the warmest days of the year, with PNC Park packed for the Pirates home-opener, jurors in Dr. Cyril H. Wecht's federal public corruption trial called it a day before lunch.

The six women and five men, who have told the judge they are hopelessly deadlocked, met Monday from 8 a.m. until 11:55 a.m. before deciding that Wecht, the former Allegheny County coroner, will have to wait at least one more day before learning his fate.

The jurors will resume deliberations this morning.

On Thursday, they informed U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab that they are at an impasse. Instead of declaring a mistrial, Schwab ordered the jurors to continue deliberating with the hope they can reach a verdict on one or more of the 41 counts of fraud and theft against Wecht. He is accused of using his public office for private gain.

Schwab's order was in line with common practice at U.S. District Court, Downtown. Judges routinely send deadlocked jurors back to make another attempt at reaching a verdict.

"There's no hurry," Schwab told the jurors last week. "As I've said all along, you set the schedule."

Schwab said he does not plan to alter that arrangement.

Jurors have deliberated for about 54 hours over 10 days since March 18. They earn $50 a day, plus reimbursements for mileage, parking and, in some cases, hotels and meals.

Testimony was heard from 44 witnesses during the seven-week trial, which began Jan. 28. Wecht, 77, of Squirrel Hill did not testify. His lawyers called no witnesses.

Schwab yesterday denied another call for a mistrial from Wecht's lawyers. The judge chastised defense attorney Jerry McDevitt for sending an e-mail over the weekend asking for a ruling before jury deliberations began this week.

"It is interesting to note that defense counsel has loudly complained in the past that the court has ruled too quickly on his and the government's motions," Schwab wrote, "as if ruling quickly on pending motions after considering motions, responses and briefs is somehow improper."



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