Written by Written by Corinne Purtill, CNN
The judge in a high-profile Philadelphia trial temporarily halted proceedings Thursday evening when a juror took a cell phone call mid-way through a jury instruction.
A gaggle of reporters and spectators had gathered in a small courtroom in the federal court for the trial of former Philadelphia police officer Richard Ewing. Lawyers for both sides face off over the charges that Ewing had sought to cover up the use of a Taser, beating and choking a man he arrested in 2005. He faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted.
During jury instructions, Judge Edmond Chang apparently took issue with the spectator’s phone and ordered the unidentified juror to turn it off and put it in the jury box. The juror complied, but inexplicably then notified court officials that he had a call.
Authorities in the court took the call as a breach of judicial order, and Chang put all testimony and the jury deliberations on hold for the afternoon. He ruled the trial would continue as planned Friday.
Members of the jury, some of whom at the trial reacted with nervous laughter, said they had not seen Chang issue a similar order before.
“You can’t be doing any sort of reading on a cell phone during jury instructions. I take it to mean anything,” said Eric Weeden, one of two jurors who spoke to reporters after the adjournment.
Ewing had been on the force for 15 years when he arrested Marvin Lydon. The officer claimed that Lydon had attacked him in 2005.
But after investigating the case, a grand jury indicted Ewing for concealing the use of a Taser, beating and choking Lydon. Ewing was arrested for filing a false police report and was charged with perjury.
Ewing had pleaded not guilty and the case had proceeded to the jury deliberations, after what Ewing’s lawyer, John Karoly Jr. called “a trial by media.”
Prior to Ewing’s indictment, Karoly had claimed that the case was “a smears campaign” against police officers, claiming that the indictment had been trumped up to gain media attention.
The juror who made the call had not been identified by authorities. Police said they were “concerned” about the juror’s behavior.
“We are gathering information regarding the circumstances of this incident and will be holding a conference shortly, with the goal of understanding any underlying considerations that led the juror to answer his cell phone,” Philadelphia Police Department said in a statement.