After nearly five days of deliberations, a Dallas federal jury told U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn Tuesday afternoon that they are deadlocked on several of the 11 counts facing long-serving Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
After a brief conference with lawyers for Price and his co-defendant, the commissioner's executive assistant Dapheny Fain, the judge brought jurors back into the courtroom at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Lynn told the jurors to go home for the day but insisted that they return Wednesday and attempt to reach a unanimous verdict on each of the charges. Price is accused of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and tax evasion, while Fain is facing charges of lying to the FBI.
A third co-defendant, longtime Dallas political consultant Kathy Nealy, is scheduled to go on trial later this year. She is accused of bribing Price on behalf of several clients.
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"I'm going to ask you to keep deliberating," Lynn said, according to reporters in the courtroom. "Go home, watch some mindless television. Take a few deep breaths. Have a good evening."
Lynn's statements and the jury's status raise a few questions. The jury isn't deadlocked on all counts, so that means they've reached a verdict on some of the charges. If the jury is hung on the mail fraud counts, they are likely fighting a moot battle, as Lynn indicated early last week that there was a "99 percent" chance she would dismiss those charges against Price. The judge believes prosecutors failed to present evidence to prove that Nealy's paying car loans on vehicles she lent to Price amounted to mail fraud.
Of all the charges against Price, mail fraud carries the longest potential sentence, at 20 years.
It's also worth noting that the jury in this case still hasn't deliberated as long as the jury did in Dallas' last major corruption trial. In that case, jurors convicted City Council member Don Hill on seven counts after deliberating for six days. Lynn later sentenced Hill to 18 years in federal prison.