No verdict yet for bombing suspect’s friend Robel Phillipos
A federal jury deliberated for a fifth day Monday without reaching a verdict in the case of Robel Phillipos, a friend of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect who is accused of lying to law enforcement agents investigating the case.
The 12 jurors, who have deliberated for 34 hours, will resume Tuesday morning to try to reach a verdict in the trial that began three weeks ago.
At the conclusion of Monday's deliberations, defense attorney Derege Demissie asked US District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock if he would eventually ask for an update from the jury about the status of their discussions. Phillipos is accused of lying about his whereabouts and observations on April 18, 2013, when two University of Massachusetts Dartmouth friends took an incriminating backpack from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room.
Woodlock said he was "disinclined" to initiate contact with the jury, and noted that he had seen juries take a week or more to reach a verdict. If jurors are deadlocked, he said, it will be up to them to inform him of their impasse.
"They're in charge," he said as Phillipos, 21, looked on, flanked by his two Cambridge attorneys.
If jurors say they are deadlocked, they are typically instructed by judges to try again; however if they are hopelessly divided, the case ends in a hung jury. In such cases, prosecutors have the option to retry the case.
Phillipos's defense attorneys and prosecutors have had little information from jurors from which to gauge their thinking. Since deliberations began, jurors have been bypassing the courtroom on their way to and from the jury room. They did not appear after asking the sole question they have posed, which came last Tuesday early on in the deliberations.
That question was about testimony from a deputy sheriff who interviewed Phillipos on the first of the two days during which he is accused of lying. The judge told them he could not give them access to the testimony, as they had requested, and that they had to rely on their "collective memory."
Phillipos attended Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School and UMass Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, and is one of three Tsarnaev friends charged with interfering with the terror bombing investigation.
The two other friends, Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, both from Kazakhstan, have been convicted of obstruction of justice for taking a backpack, which contained emptied fireworks, from Tsarnaev's dorm room and later tossing it in a dumpster.
Phillipos is not charged with handling the incriminating backpack, but he is charged with lying about what he saw that night.
Prosecutors say he lied about being in Tsarnaev's dorm room and seeing the removal of the backpack. His attorneys, however, say he did not accurately recall that night because he was high on marijuana. The backpack was later recovered by FBI agents.
Phillipos faces two counts of making false statements during two interviews. If jurors convict him of lying, they also have to tell the judge if his false statements involved a terrorism investigation. If so, the maximum prison time for Phillipos on each count increases from five to eight years.
Tsarnaev's trial is scheduled to begin in January. He is accused of joining his older brother, Tamerlan, in setting off two homemade bombs at the Marathon finish line. His brother later died in a shoot-out with police.