Astor jury appears to be struggling

‘Hang in there,’ Astor jury told by judge
Mark Lebetkin/Melissa Grace
October 6, 2009
New York Daily News
The judge in the Brooke Astor fraud trial told jurors to “hang in there” Monday, after the panel seemed deadlocked on at least some of the charges.

“You must be as respectful of one another as one can possibly be,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Kirke Bartley said after the panel sent out a note. The jurors apparently said they were struggling to reach a verdict in a tangled case that accuses Astor’s son, Anthony Marshall, and a lawyer pal of stealing millions from the late philanthropist.

“I’m going to ask that you hang in there,” Bartley told tense jurors on the ninth day of deliberations. One woman juror, her eyes and nose red, appeared to be crying.

“Any verdict you return on any count, whether guilty or not guilty, must be unanimous,” he said, suggesting they may be stuck on just some of the 18 counts.

The jury has repeatedly asked about a larceny count that accuses Marshall of giving himself a $1 million pay raise. That charge alone carries 25 years in jail. Marshall, 85, and lawyer Francis Morrissey, 66, are charged with swindling Astor out of more than $60 million.

Jury in Astor Case Appears to Be Struggling
John Eligon/Mathew R. Warren
October 5, 2009
The New York Times
The judge overseeing the trial of Anthony D. Marshall, the son of Brooke Astor, the legendary New York society matriarch, exhorted the jury to “hang in there” on Monday afternoon, after the jury sent the judge two notes suggesting that it was struggling to reach a verdict.

The notes, and the judge’s remarks, suggested the possibility of a deadlock, although the jurors, who are to resume deliberations on Tuesday, could yet reach a verdict in one of the city’s most-watched trials in recent memory. Mr. Marshall is accused of stealing from his mother, who died in 2007, as she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease in the twilight of her life.

Justice A. Kirke Bartley Jr. of State Supreme Court in Manhattan received two notes from the jury around lunchtime Monday. About 4 p.m., he summoned the jurors into the courtroom and told them, “I’m going to ask that you hang in there a bit longer.” He stressed that the jury’s verdict must be unanimous.

“I’m not asking any juror to violate his or her conscience or abandon his or her best judgment,” Justice Bartley said.

He said that it had been a long trial and that “emotions may run high,” but he praised the jurors, saying they formed “the best jury” he had worked with in his legal career. He added, “I believe if you work together you will be able to accomplish that with which you are charged.”

He asked the jurors to “be respectful of one another,” and said later, “In a case of this length, it’s doubly important that you maintain that level of civility.”

Justice Bartley continued: “This is a job, I feel in my heart of hearts, that I feel you can accomplish. Let the touchstone of your deliberations be respect and civility.”

He did not release or divulge the contents of the notes or specify what tensions, if any, divided the jurors.

The jurors went back in to deliberate, but a short while later they requested to be relieved for the day. Justice Bartley allowed them to go home; they are to resume their deliberations Tuesday.

A guilty verdict on the most serious charges — two counts of first-degree grand larceny — would mean that Mr. Marshall, an 85-year-old war veteran who fought at Iwo Jima, could be sentenced to anywhere from one to 25 years behind bars.

The trial has lasted longer than had been expected. The jury of eight women and four men sat through more than 19 weeks of testimony and arguments. Mrs. Astor, whose fortune was estimated at more than $180 million, died two years ago at 105.