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Judge Rejects Mistrial Motion in Ghailani Trial

A courtroom sketch of Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewin, (foreground) giving opening statement to the jury in the trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (L) in Manhattan Federal Court in New York (File)

The judge in the New York City trial of accused terrorist Ahmed Ghailani has turned down a defense motion for a mistrial after a member of the jury claimed harassment by other members of the panel.

Judge Lewis Kaplan told defense attorneys there is no reason to declare a mistrial, noting that the jury began deliberations only last Wednesday in a trial that includes thousands of pages of evidence and testimony.

The possibility of a hung jury came after one of the jurors wrote a note to Kaplan saying her conclusion about the verdict would not change and that she felt she was being "attacked" by other jury members for her opinion.

The judge also denied the juror's request to be excused, saying no jury member has been physically harmed or yelled at. He added that members of the U.S. Supreme Court are routinely attacked during deliberations.

The prosecution said this could be a case in which a juror refuses to deliberate. A remedy for that in the U.S. legal system is known as an Allen Charge. This would involve further instruction from the judge to the jury about the importance of the given trial, the resources devoted to it, combined with a call to jurors in a substantial minority to reconsider their position.

Kaplan said it is too early to issue an Allen Charge. He concluded the session by saying, "Let's see what happens. Time is a great thing."

Ahmed Ghailani is accused of conspiracy in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and in his native Tanzania. The defense has argued that he was a dupe of those who actually carried out the attacks. The 36-year-old defendant was captured in 2004 in Pakistan and was transferred to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a U.S. civilian court.