Umer Hayat’s jury almost deadlocked today but decided to go home and return Tuesday — but not before they asked for a vacuum cleaner. In the meantime, Hayat’s son’s jury sent the judge a note that could indicate they had reached one or more verdicts on his four charges. But U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. sealed the note and instructed them only to continue deliberating.
Umer Hayat’s jurors have now spent seven days in a windowless room, debating whether the Lodi man lied to the FBI about his alleged knowledge of terror training camps in Pakistan. Their trash is placed outside the room every afternoon, but the room itself has apparently become messy enough to warrant a vacuum cleaner.
They spent part of today listening as the court reporter read them trial testimony, which they had requested three times before the judge finally allowed them to hear it again.
The testimony consisted of three FBI agents who testified about their June interviews with Umer Hayat, 48. It was during those unrecorded interviews that he allegedly denied knowing about the training camps, and of his son’s alleged involvement with them.
Half an hour after hearing the testimony and returning to their deliberation room in the federal courthouse, the jury forewoman, a Woodbridge resident, sent Burrell a note: “(We) cannot agree to a unanimous verdict. We wait for further instruction from the court.”
Burrell called the jurors into the courtroom, then instructed them to examine all views and consider all the legal instructions he had previously given them at the end of the nine-week trial.
The jurors left the courtroom at 3:10 p.m., went on a break and then, at 3:40 p.m., asked for a vacuum cleaner to be ready at 7 a.m. Tuesday. They will return at 9 a.m., but, according to the note, one juror volunteered to arrive early to clean the deliberation room, which they also used for breaks during the trial.
Jurors left for the day before learning that Burrell instead ordered courthouse staff to clean both jury rooms before Tuesday morning.
If Umer Hayat’s jurors cannot reach verdicts on the two charges of lying to FBI agents, the judge will then declare a mistrial. Government prosecutors, who declined to comment today, will then have the option of taking the case back to trial.
Defense attorney Johnny Griffin III said after court that he is “hopeful” the jurors will find Umer Hayat not guilty, but that he will be ready if there is another trial.
Hamid Hayat, who is charged with three counts of lying to the FBI and one count of providing material support to terrorists, will have to wait at least part of Tuesday to find out if his jury is close to reaching verdicts.
Shortly before leaving for the weekend Friday afternoon, the jurors sent a note to the judge, who discussed it with attorneys, sealed it and only publicly disclosed its existence this morning.
Burrell’s written response to the jury was brief: “Jury, please continue your deliberations.”
The judge is still considering a prosecution motion to seal verdicts until both juries are finished, to avoid having deliberating jurors learn about the other jury’s verdicts. The father and son were tried together before separate juries.
The Hamid Hayat jury’s note could indicate that they received partial verdicts: Burrell did not address it the same way as he did the note from Umer Hayat’s jury, so they apparently have not reached a stalemate.
Instead, he issued a five-page written ruling, citing the case’s extensive publicity and saying that publication of the note could make the jurors “learn that aspects of their intended secret deliberations had been exposed to public scrutiny.” Jurors have been ordered to avoid news of the case, but they could inadvertently see a headline, Burrell wrote.
Before leaving for the day, they asked to hear testimony from FBI agent Harry Sweeney. He interviewed Hamid Hayat on June 4, without videotaping the exchange, and the 23-year-old allegedly denied attending a camp.
Then, when Sweeney asked why the FBI had a satellite photo of Hamid Hayat at a camp, he changed his story, the agent testified. No such photo exists, the agent testified.
Hamid Hayat’s jurors, who wrapped up their eighth day of deliberations today, will hear the agent’s testimony today.
Both Hayats, who are U.S. citizens, remain jailed without bail. If convicted of all charges, Umer Hayat faces up to 16 years in prison, while Hamid Hayat faces a maximum 39-year prison term.