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Judge denies defense mistrial in NYC synagogue bomb plot case

By Christina Romano, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One juror is dismissed after evidence ruled inadmissible was given to her
  • Defense attorneys asked for a mistrial; two other jurors briefly look at the document
  • Deliberations continue with 11 jurors

New York (CNN) -- The judge presiding over the case against four men on trial for plotting to bomb a synagogue and Jewish center in New York City denied the defense's request for a mistrial Tuesday.

Defense attorneys argued that jurors could be swayed by evidence that was not permitted in the trial, but had mistakenly been put in one juror's packet of evidence Friday.

Jurors were sent home early Friday after the juror discovered a transcript that had been ruled inadmissible by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon before the trial began. The jury sent the judge a note marked urgent Friday afternoon after the juror discovered none of the others had that transcript, which was of a telephone call.

The juror, who had looked over the transcript, was dismissed from the trial Tuesday after conceding that she was unsure if she could continue without considering it.

The jury continued deliberations Tuesday with 11 members.

At least two other jurors said they briefly looked at or discussed the transcript before sending a note to the judge.

"Someone has made a pretty inexcusable error but we don't know how bad an error it is," Judge McMahon said in court Friday when jurors were not present.

The jury is considering the case against James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all from Newburgh, New York, who were arrested on May 20, 2009. They are charged with conspiring to blow up the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Community Center in Riverdale. They are also accused of planning to fire surface-to-air-missiles at a New York National Guard facility.

The jury spent six weeks listening to testimony and undercover tapes made by an FBI informant who had posed as a member of a Pakistani terror group. The jury began deliberations last Wednesday.

During the course of questioning Friday it was also discovered that the jurors' packet contained another transcript for an audio recording the government had not put into evidence, although it had never been ruled inadmissible by the judge.

Attorneys for the defendants claimed they did not know it was going to the jury and would have addressed it had they known.

"The government is entirely responsible for jurors having things in their binders that are not on the [evidence] list," McMahon said.

The U.S. attorney's office and attorneys for the defendants declined to comment.

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