The ruling came on the 12th day of jury deliberations in the case against former chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski and former chief financial officer Mark Swartz, accused of stealing $600 million from their company in one of the biggest corporate corruption cases in U.S. history.
“I have no choice but to grant a mistrial,” said New York Supreme Court Judge Michael Obus. “It is certainly a shame that this has to be done at this time.”
State prosecutors have said they will seek a retrial “at the earliest opportunity,” according to a statement issued from Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
When announcing his decision, Obus cited “outside pressure” on one of the jurors. He said there was no finding that the juror had done anything wrong and “a great disservice may have been done to her and her family,” according to the Associated Press.
The controversy over Juror No. 4 began last week when some news organizations reported she made an “OK” gesture to defense attorneys as she walked by. The Wall Street Journal and New York Post printed her name.
Defense attorneys repeatedly asked for a mistrial, saying the juror — an apparent holdout for acquittal — was being pressured by the media and possibly other jurors to change her vote.
The jurors had been sending notes to the judge calling the atmosphere “poisonous” and saying some participants were not negotiating in good faith. A note from one juror expressed concern “that one or more jurors do not have an open mind as to the possibility of the defendants’ innocence.”
Sources speaking to news outlets on condition of anonymity said Juror No. 4 had received a threatening or coercive letter, which factored into the judge’s decision.
The 32-count indictment against the former Tyco executives accused them of an array of securities fraud, grand larceny and corruption charges.
The trial featured testimony about how Kozlowski and Swartz spent company money on numerous luxury items, including an apartment on Park Avenue, homes in Boca Raton, Fla., and jewelry from Harry Winston and Tiffany’s, according to The New York Times.
But defense attorneys said the men had earned the money and the payments made to them had company approval.
If ultimately convicted, Kozlowski and Swartz could get up to 30 years in prison.