A juror in the trial of six former Bell city officials was excused for misconduct Thursday as the panel neared the end of its first week of deliberations in the corruption case.
Jurors sent a note to the judge Thursday morning and court officials issued a statement indicating the jury may be at an impasse. But after attorneys and the six defendants were called to the courtroom, the judge dismissed a juror because of misconduct that involved online research.
During the morning hearing, the dismissed juror accused the other members of the panel of coercion. The juror told the court she researched coercion online and had spoken with a lawyer about the subject.
The judge determined her actions qualified as misconduct.
A replacement juror is expected to be selected from a pool of four alternates after a mid-day lunch break. The panel shakeup means jurors must begin deliberations -- closing arguments wrapped up Friday -- again in the trial involving the city's former mayor and five former council members charged with misappropriating public funds. Testimony began Jan. 25.
Former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 65, former Councilwoman Teresa Jacobo, 55, and former Councilman George Mirabal, 63, are each charged with 20 counts of misappropriating public funds between January 2006 and July 2010.
Former Councilman Victor Bello, 54, is charged with 16 counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2009, while former Councilman Luis Artiga, 52, is charged with 12 counts of misappropriation between January 2008 and July 2010 and former Councilman Cole, 63, is charged with eight counts of misappropriation between January 2006 and December 2007.
Several Bell residents attended each day of the trial.