People often ask, just how many times can a person be tried in federal court if the jury is unable to reach a verdict? The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York is pondering that same question today, after the jury in John Gotti, Jr.’s fourth trial deadlocked and Judge Kevin Castel declared a mistrial.
The government, meanwhile, which had charged Mr. Gotti with racketeering and murder conspiracy, released a statement saying that it had not yet decided whether to pursue a fifth trial. Elie Honig, the lead prosecutor in the case, took the gentlemanly step of wishing Mr. Gotti well on his future and warmly shaking his hand.
That’s very nice of Honig. It should always be so gentlemanly when you get to mistrial number four. But it’s time to put this to rest. Four tries is more than enough. They should have stopped after two. The Southern District has not only embarrassed itself by its persistence, but would be unable to obtain a credible verdict in any event. Try someone enough times and the law of averages suggests that eventually you will get a conviction. But that won’t convince the rest of us.
“The evidence was just not there to prosecute the guy,” said one of the jurors, all of whom remained anonymous. Others said they did not believe the government’s chief witness, John Alite, a confessed hit man and a former member of Mr. Gotti’s crew.
I could have told the government that. In fact, I did.
The jurors’ sharpest words came when they were asked if the government should retry Mr. Gotti. No, they said resoundingly— the only unanimous verdict they had reached.
“They should stop this now — it’s ridiculous,” said one of the jurors, a middle-aged man. Another juror, a woman, said of the prosecution: “It’s abusive. It’s almost become a mockery.”
The juror is almost right. It’s already a mockery.