Day One Raniere Trial [May 7]: Juror’s Wife Has Cancer; He’s Excused

I plan to cover the trial of Keith Raniere by reporting the big events as quickly as possible on the day of the trial – and then on the following day get into more detail of events that occurred.

For the more in-depth coverage, I will be quoting from the transcripts.

The first day of the trial had numerous important moments.

The first thing of interest, to me at least, was an issue that occurred before the. jury was brought into the courtroom. It was about a couple  members of the jury -and whether they’d continue to serve.

It’s interesting to me because it shows a little about how the role of jurors are perceived in the modern legal system and illustrates the importance of hearing both sides of a story before rushing to judgment.

***

THE COURT: We have two juror issues. The first  juror issue is that Alternate No. 4 advised Mr. Reccoppa that she’s taking three summer courses at Queensborough Community College and she provided a fee card that she paid yesterday for these courses. She’s not a matriculated student. These are nondegree courses. Before I talk to her about her educational pursuits, I thought I would talk to the parties. I plan to tell her, unless you object, that she’s obligated to be a juror in this case, she can’t sign up for courses after Proceedings she is told that she’s a possible juror and after she’s told that she’d been selected as a juror. Is there any objection to that?

AGNIFILO: No. I think that’s right.

PENZA: We agree.

THE COURT: Okay. Next, we have Juror No. 9. There’s no note, but what did Juror No. 9 tell you?

THE COURTROOM DEPUTY: That his wife is — gave him a hard time, he can’t serve, he’s — mentally, he can’t think about this case anymore. He thought he could serve when he did the interview, but he can’t do it any longer, he’s under a lot of pressure at home.

AGNIFILO: “The wife is giving me a hard time” excuse —

THE COURTROOM DEPUTY: At home.

AGNIFILO: Yes?

PENZA: I’m sorry, I just can’t — I have been thinking about their old juror numbers and I’m just having trouble picturing exactly —

THE COURT: What juror number is that?

THE COURTROOM DEPUTY: Nine is 57.

PENZA: Off the top of my head —

AGNIFILO: It’s not the Ramadan juror. We’ll get our notes.

PENZA: If we can review our notes —

AGNIFILO: Yeah, yeah.  Juror No. 9, I can’t picture him, though.

THE COURT: Well, let me cut to the chase here. I can bring the juror in, he can tell me his story, and then I can say, well, we’re going to get started and at the end of the day, you know, if he — if he has to come in tomorrow and then let me know how he’s doing, that’s all. I mean, I just can’t let jurors out because their wife doesn’t want them to serve on the jury.

AGNIFILO: I agree with you.

THE COURT: I just can’t do it. And if he decides to be ill, then we’ll deal with him being ill, but the fact that he’s now saying it’s inconvenient or his wife doesn’t like that he’s on a jury — I mean, I’m inclined to ask him have you been discussing this case with your wife, that would be grounds to strike him, but, you know, I’m going to have him sit — if that happens, he will be a juror for the next six weeks sitting downstairs because, you know, he’s got a choice: He can sit downstairs at that point or he can be a juror.

AGNIFILO: My concern, Judge, is if you ask him that question and he sees that as the exit, he will say, yeah, I —

THE COURT: If he volunteers it, I will let you know.

AGNIFILO: Okay.

THE COURT: I think you make a good point. Is there anything else on that?

PENZA: No, Your Honor.

AGNIFILO: No.

***

The Court discussed other legal matters with the attorneys then said:

So what I’m now going to do is I’m going to go talk  to these two jurors very briefly and then we’ll start.

AGNIFILO: Very good, Judge.

PENZA: Thank you, Your Honor.

(The discussion occurred in the robing room with the Court and was sealed by order of the Court. Counsel not present.

Then the judge came back and said in open court, the jury was not present.

THE COURT: We’ll take a sidebar.

Everyone can be seated.

(Sidebar conference.)

THE COURT: With regard to Alternate No. 4, I advised her that she would have to serve.

With regard to Juror No. 9, he’s unemployed, as you know, he lives in Queens, but he goes up to the Bronx where his wife, from whom he’s separated, is living with their six-year-old son. His wife has stage 4 cancer and she’s receiving chemotherapy and, when she’s in chemotherapy, she’s unable to pick up their son from school — he is six years old. And so my question of him was ‘why didn’t you just tell us this because you would have been excused if you had told us this before you were selected to be on the jury.’ I think he’s under a lot of stress. I tried to explain to him that this creates a problem. He was very apologetic.

I can’t believe that he would be able to concentrate on this case if he remained a juror, plus there’s the question of his wife’s extremely serious illness and his son’s safety and well-being, and so I’m inclined, unless you object, to excuse him and to replace Juror No. 9 with Alternate No. 1.

Is there any objection to that?

AGNIFILO: I think that’s right.

PENZA: No objection.

THE COURT: Okay. That’s what we will do. I will put it on the record that Juror No. 9 has been excused and is being replaced by Alternate No. 1.

 

About the author

Frank Parlato

Frank Parlato is the founder of the FrankReport, publisher and editor-in-chief of Artvoice, The Niagara Falls Reporter, Front Page and the South Buffalo News.

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  • It is to wonder if it is not preferable in the US to be rather a multimillionaire criminal rather than being an unemployed juryman… Bastard of poor people !

  • Interesting. The man whose wife has cancer probably should have made all that clearer a lot earlier but there we are. I am glad I have never been called to serve. My business would fold and the children would not eat and fee bears no relationship to the costs some of us have which means many of the people who might work full time and perhaps be useful to have on juries find it very hard to make the commitment so we end up with those without jobs which is not very representative.

  • This is a reminder of how difficult it is to get normal everyday people to serve on a jury, particularly for a long criminal trial. Though it’s interesting that the one who apparently now needs to be dismissed, must have been so eager to do his duty that he didn’t fully inform the court of the difficulties of dealing with his ex-wife and child.

    And thanks once more for all the detailed reporting.

  • People don’t appreciate how much of an imposition jury duty is to the public.
    Even for retired people taking six weeks out of their lives is quite a burden.
    And jurors are not paid very well.
    Lastly much of the legal maneuvering in side bars and chambers revolves around what information should be provided to jurors and what should be withheld.
    Often more is withheld from jurors than revealed.
    Reading the archives of the Frank Report will be informative to an observer than the information jurors will receive.

    • “Reading the archives of the Frank Report… jurors will receive.” If that’s not an obstruction of justice, I don’t know what is!

    • Absolutely correct. Anyone who has read the Frank Report from Day 1 till now will have a much fuller understanding of the nuances of the case and the operations of the Bronfman-Raniere Crime Syndicate that a juror sitting through 6 weeks of a trial.

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