The judge isn’t the only one getting bored during testimony in a three-man drug conspiracy case underway in federal court.
During a long afternoon of testimony Thursday, many of the 15 members of the jury in federal Judge Ellen Bree Burns’ second-floor Church Street courtroom slumped in their chairs, arms folded, sometimes frowning, occasionally talking to their neighbors. One woman slid down her chair so she could lean her head against the back.
Robert Santos, Richard Anderson, and Philip Bryant are being tried in U.S. District Court for drug conspiracy, one of three trials to emerge so far from the largest federal drug sweep in state history, dubbed “Operation Bloodline.”
Jurors exhibited all the signs of growing irritation and boredom Thursday. Federal drug cases can be repetitive and tedious, with extensive questioning sometimes required to establish basic facts in the case, followed by complex re-questioning by defense attorneys looking to trip up government witnesses.
Judge Burns herself admitted to finding the case boring, during a statement from the bench last Friday morning, in which she defended herself from allegations that she had been sleeping during the trial.
On Thursday afternoon, after the jury was dismissed for the day, prosecutors and defense attorneys began discussing the schedule for the rest of the trial with Judge Burns.
Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Dave Vatti, urged the judge to set an accelerated pace for the remainder of the trial, given the body language of the jurors.
“They’re sending a clear signal that they’re getting fed up, and we need to move this case along,” Vatti urged.
Vatti repeatedly referenced the jurors’ apparent restlessness as he warned that the court will have some very disgruntled jurors on its hands if they’re told to go home after only a half-day of testimony on Friday.
The attorneys agreed to try to complete the presentation of evidence by 1 p.m. on Friday, and be ready to give closing statements.
Before Vatti’s comments, it was slow going in the courtroom Thursday afternoon as jurors were tasked listening to defense attorney Richard Reeve’s cross-examination of the government’s star witness, a man known as “Nature.” Over the course of four hours, Reeve led Nature to painstakingly recreate a timeline of Nature’s involvement in the drug trade. The testimony included the presentation of intercepted text messages and recorded phone calls, each of which had to be entered into evidence. Nature needed frequent reminding of context; Reeve often mixed up his dates. And the testimony was interrupted by a number of sidebar discussions with the judge, or conferring between attorneys.
Previous days of the trial have included extensive courtroom playback of wiretapped phone calls, many of which have required line-by-line exegesis by witnesses, under questioning by attorneys. It wasn’t exactly an episode like Law & Order.
Past Independent stories on Operation Bloodline:
• Judge, 90: “I Was Not Asleep”
• Defense: Let Jury Know Why Star Witnesses Talk
• “Bloodline” Dealer Found Guilty
• On The Stand, Freeman Is No “White Boy Chris”
• 6 Rental Cars + 1 Stash House = Big Drug Dealer?
• TXT From B.O. To Big Dog: “14s 36h”
• Bloodline Jurors Learn The Drug-Dealing ABCs
• YouTube, Facebook Helped Bust The Bloods
• Biggs’ Jailhouse Plea: Don’t Believe The Rap
• Wiley Don Raps Feds From Prison
• “Bloodline” Cop Wiretapped Sister’s Boyfriends
• Guilty Verdict In “Bloodline” Trial
• Bloodline Defense Lawyers: That’s All You’ve Got?
• Drug Trade’s “Great White Hope” Grilled
• “Bloodline” Trail Leads To White Boy Chris
• Judge To Feds: Fix Your “2nd Class” Mess
• “Top” Blood, Rapper’s Pal, Pleads Not Guilty
• Feds Indict 105 In Tre Bloods Probe
• “Operation Bloodline” Nets Alleged 61 Tre Bloods