Tyco jurors break for the weekend

Former Tyco International Ltd. Chairman Dennis Kozlowski arrives at court with his wife Karen in New York Friday. Chip East / REUTERS
/ Source: The Associated Press

The judge in the corporate-looting trial of two former Tyco International Ltd. executives sent squabbling jurors home for the weekend Friday, declining to declare a mistrial at least for the moment.

“I will not be granting a mistrial at this point,” state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus told lawyers after sending the jury home. “We’ll see what happens on Monday.”

Earlier in the day, jurors reported that their deliberations were “irreparably compromised” by infighting. The judge asked them to reconsider over lunch, and the jurors later answered with a note asking that they be allowed to return Monday.

“In this, your wish is my command,” the judge said. He added: “Put this away for a while. Relax. Do whatever you can do safely over the weekend, and be back at 9:30 Monday morning.”

Friday was the seventh day of deliberations by the jury, which sat through nearly six months of testimony.

The jurors are weighing charges against former Tyco chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski and former chief financial officer Mark Swartz, who are accused of stealing $600 million from the conglomerate. The two allegedly took unauthorized bonuses and abused company loan programs and used the money to finance lavish lifestyles.

Before lunch, the judge had said he was not optimistic that the trial of former Tyco chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski and former chief financial officer Mark Swartz would continue past Friday.

In notes sent to the judge Thursday, the jurors had called the jury-room atmosphere “poisonous,” and said that “incendiary accusations” had been made among jurors. They said at least one juror felt persecuted.

Before sending the jury home, Obus said lawyers had brought to his attention reports of a gesture made by one juror as she passed in front of lawyers on her way to the jury box earlier in the day. The gesture had been interpreted by some reporters as an “OK” sign. The judge acknowledged hearing about the gesture, and said he would continue telling jurors they should consider nothing but the evidence in the case.

The judge also reminded the jurors Friday that a readback of testimony that they had requested Thursday was still available if they wanted it.