The trial of former police officer Michael Pena—who had been accused of raping a 25-year-old school teacher at gunpoint while off-duty in Manhattan last August—was a giant mess, to say the least. Chief among the problems was the fact that one of the three holdout jurors who refused to convict Pena of rape (but did convict him of predatory sexual assault) had ties to several prominent law-enforcement figures, but purposefully withheld that information. Finally, lawyer Lloyd Constantine admitted to the News that maybe, just maybe, he made a mistake in not admitting those ties initially: “I would have included a much longer list of names and somewhere in there would have been Cy Vance,” he said in hindsight.
Not that it changes the fact that "there’s no law that says a jury has to reach a verdict.” It goes without saying that Constantine would have been kicked off the jury were that information available. Constantine knowingly withheld knowledge of his relationship to Manhattan DA Cy Vance (whom he played tennis with occasionally), former Gov. Elliot Spitzer (for whom he was a longtime advisor), and lawyer Richard Aborn (his former law partner who had once run against Vance). And initially, Constantine said it was the D.A.'s responsibility to find that info if they wanted: “Do you think it’s hard for the D.A.’s office to keep track of contributors at the $5k level?” he asked the Times by e-mail.
Mind you, other lawyers and legal ethics experts say he was definitely in the wrong: “He knows better than this,” said Thomas J. Curran, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. “By any objective standard, that information should have been volunteered.” “The critical fact is that while Constantine may have believed that the friendship was not so strong as to disqualify him from the jury, the law gives others the right to make that decision,” said Stephen Gillers, a legal-ethics professor at NYU.
Nevertheless, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Richard Carruthers ruled yesterday that there was no "misconduct" on Constantine's part. And Carruthers has sealed all court documents related to the trial, "to prevent harassment of these individuals," and "to preserve the confidentiality of jury deliberations."
Of course, everyone already knows who Constantine is—and he doesn't seem like he'd mind the transcripts being released: “Boy, that judge didn’t do me any favors,” Constantine said. “I want to read it. They want to read it. Everybody should read it because it does help me.”
What's not helping him? More leaks from anonymous jurors about the divisiveness during the deliberations, between the nine who wanted to convict Pena of rape and the three who weren't convinced the victim was penetrated, despite the fact she testified that she was: “My argument, and the argument of others was, ‘We’ve got clear, detailed testimony from a witness we believe, that we find credible, with no testimony disputing it — what is keeping you from voting guilty?’ ” one juror told the Times.
And what held up some jurors was the fact that the victim couldn't remember the color of a car parked by the courtyard where she was attacked. Oh, and the fact that when a male and female police officer arrived, the victim ran to the male officer: “This juror thought that a woman who had just been raped would be more likely to run to a female officer.”