Al-Arian judge still weighing juror's conduct (9/9)
St. Petersburg Times
September 9, 2005
By MEG LAUGHLIN
Link: Click here
The judge, who could dismiss the juror for his remarks, says one
was "outside the case." But he doesn't note others.
TAMPA - The federal judge in the trial of Sami Al-Arian ruled
Thursday that there was no misconduct among two of three jurors
whose actions have been under scrutiny for two weeks.
He said he would reserve ruling on the third juror, who, the two
other jurors allege, made prejudicial comments about organizations
run by the defendants.
What was noteworthy about the decision of U.S. District Judge James
S. Moody Jr. was not the decision itself, but his explanation of why
he made it. And what was noteworthy about that was not what the
judge focused on, but what he did not mention.
Moody explained his position by talking about an alleged comment by
a juror that was peripheral to the case, not one supposedly made by
the same juror that goes to the heart of the case.
The issue arose two weeks ago when a juror sent the judge an
anonymous note. It said: "Could you just remind the jury to keep
their opinions to their self?"
Moody responded by questioning the 12 jurors and the six alternates,
asking most of them if they had "heard any discussion about the
case" from other jurors. Each juror was questioned alone in the jury
box, out of earshot of the others.
Two of the 18 said they had heard something.
"I've heard people making different comments about some things -
comments about the school IAF (Islamic Academy of Florida). ... This
particular juror believed it was a front for the PIJ (Palestinian
Islamic Jihad)," said a juror.
Another juror said she had heard something: "one guy making little
comments that WISE (World and Islam Studies Enterprise) and IAF were
all a front ... and about somebody killed a member of Islamic Jihad
(PIJ). ... When he's out, they're talking - him and the same two
This juror said she had written the note.
Since the four defendants - Al-Arian, Sameeh Hammoudeh, Ghassan
Ballut and Hatem Fariz - are charged with using IAF, a K-12 school,
and other Tampa organizations as fronts to raise money for PIJ
terrorist acts, the alleged comment about "fronts" involve something
central to the case.
But that was not what the judge focused on in Thursday's ruling.
Instead, it was the comment about the PIJ member being killed.
Earlier in the week, the judge further questioned the note-writing
juror, asking her to read from her notes about the other juror's
comments on the PIJ member being killed.
She said that on Aug. 25, the juror in question said PIJ leaders had
been killed during the pullout from the Gaza Strip in the occupied
The judge tracked the information to an Aug. 25 Tampa Tribune
article, which should have been removed from the newspaper before it
was given to jurors.
Thursday, Moody dismissed the comments of the juror in question,
based on the newspaper article on the Gaza killing, as "comments
outside the case."
But what he did not mention was the alleged comments about the
Islamic Academy of Florida and WISE being "fronts."
WISE was a think tank founded by Al-Arian when he was a University
of South Florida professor.
Before Thursday, Moody questioned the juror twice. The first time,
Moody asked him if he had heard any discussion, not if he had made
any comments. The juror said he hadn't.
The second time, Moody asked him if he had heard comments or made
them since the first questioning. The juror in question said he
hadn't, and, if he had, he didn't mean "to influence anyone."
But neither question from the judge dealt with the issue of whether
the note-writing juror's initial complaint was provoked by a
prejudicial comment about "fronts" from the juror in question. That
part of the allegation seems to have been ignored by the judge, at
Thursday, after Moody talked about the murder of PIJ leaders on Aug.
25, Al-Arian's attorney Bill Moffitt told the judge: "I remind you
that a juror was making comments about things being fronts."
The judge's response seemingly ignored the comment. "It's ironic
that all of this came out of a paper we put in the jury room," Moody
said, referring again to the killing and Gaza pullout and ignoring
the issue that provoked the juror's note in the first place.