MARTINEZ -- On the second full day of deliberations, "Juror No. 6" walked into the jury room, sat back in his chair, crossed his arms and made an announcement.

"I've heard all I need to hear and ... the minute I walked out of the trial my mind was made up," he proclaimed, stunning the other jurors as they prepared to weigh the evidence against East Bay prison gang leader Coby Phillips on charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy.

It was hardly a "12 Angry Men" moment -- for one thing, Juror No. 6 wanted to acquit Phillips on every count and had significant support -- but it prompted a rare jury misconduct hearing where his fellow panelists accused him of failing to deliberate and sought to bounce him from the panel. And Juror No. 6's outburst was just one example of conflict during 16 or so raucous hours in May, punctuated by yelling matches, name-calling and concerns about missing vacations.

Mary Gerrard outside of the Bray Courthouse in Martinez on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. Gerrard was a juror in a high-profile case that ended in a hung jury
Mary Gerrard outside of the Bray Courthouse in Martinez on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. Gerrard was a juror in a high-profile case that ended in a hung jury due to a dysfunctional jury. She was disturbed by the jury experience and thought justice was not served. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

The Contra Costa judge eventually ruled that the juror had not committed misconduct, but declared a hung jury and mistrial after hearing of the panel's dysfunction.

Jury deliberations usually are about as secret as widespread 21st-century technology allows; this glimpse into the inner workings of the Phillips deliberations was unusual. However, jury research and anecdotal stories show that conflict is to be expected when a dozen strangers with a wide range of personalities are placed in the same room to make what is sometimes a life-or-death decision.

About 7.5 percent of jury trials hang on all charges and almost 13 percent hang on at least one charge, according to a 2002 report by the National Center for State Courts Center for Jury Studies. It's just the way a sometimes messy system works, experts say. But it may disappoint those who have a more idealistic view of our justice system.


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"We failed everybody," said Mary Gerrard, Juror No. 12 in the Phillips case. "We failed you the taxpayer, we failed the court and we failed Coby for not giving him a fair trial. People were putting their own interests ahead of it."

Andrea Roth, a UC Berkeley law school professor specializing in criminal law and procedure, said a disgruntled, contentious jury is not necessarily bad.

"We're a pluralist society and disagree on all sorts of things, and that's part of the beauty of it," she said. "Deliberations are supposed to be heated and passionate; that's why (judges) don't venture too much into the box. ... Jurors are not supposed to check their common sense at the door; they are supposed to bring their life experiences to the deliberations."

During May's misconduct hearing, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Charles Burch shared a story with the attorneys about a federal case in which one juror threw a cup of hot coffee in the face of another.

"Jurors get into rows," he said.

In August, prosecutors began the process to retry Phillips; the next hearing is scheduled for November. Eventually, an entirely new jury will be convened, and those new panelists also may consider nine new counts against Phillips for crimes he allegedly committed in jail.

It was 3:13 p.m. May 21 when testimony ended and the judge dispatched the jury to deliberate the charges against Phillips, the tattooed founder of Family Affiliated Irish Mafia, a Contra Costa-based prison gang.

The monthlong trial had been tense; it included extra security, a verbal outburst from Phillips in open court and a lineup of prosecution witnesses who were under federal witness protection.

The case was also complicated: Prosecutors were accusing Phillips of attempted murder, even though he was in jail when the shooting in question happened. Some of the witnesses testifying against Phillips had accepted deals to take the stand, and they had long criminal backgrounds themselves. The conspiracy charge against Phillips was far from black-and-white; it involved a complicated legal calculation to determine whether his gang worked with other gangs to run their drug trade and commit violence.

Jurors struggled with the evidence, particularly on the conspiracy charge, Gerrard said. Stuffed into a tiny jury room adjacent to the courtroom, they sat around a long table that left little space to walk around.

After an hour or so of deliberations the first day, the foreman -- an older Italian-American man -- took a quick poll of where everyone stood on the three counts and marked it on a chalkboard at the end of the table, Gerrard said. They were not unanimous, and the judge's gift of doughnuts and coffee did little to ease their already fraying tempers, jurors later told the judge.

"Santa Claus could have done it ... Donald Duck," Juror No. 6 began to postulate.

The next day, the foreman began rereading the long jury instructions to the group when Juror No. 6 erupted.

"Don't raise your voice to me! You're bullying me!" Juror No. 6 yelled at the foreman as he waved his finger.

Juror No. 6 -- a middle-age vector control employee -- insisted during the misconduct hearing that he did not yell, but was taking a stand.

Meanwhile, Juror No. 1, a federal parks guard, was urging speedy deliberations so he could take his scheduled vacation. He spent breaks switching travel reservations, Gerrard said. Juror No. 7, a teacher, also wanted to hurry things along so he could watch his students graduate, she said.

It all got in the way of reaching agreement. The discussion veered off on tangents; the parks guard cited his law enforcement expertise, while another juror, an ex-drug addict, shared his personal views about the world of narcotics.

The final internal vote by the jury had Phillips not guilty (9-3) of attempted murder, not guilty (7-5) of murder and guilty (10-2) of conspiracy.

Phillips' attorney Daniel Horowitz said the arguments among panelists about whether they all deliberated appropriately were part of the process. "To me, jury misconduct is voting with the majority on Friday so you don't have to come back Monday," he said. "Extreme arguments are just fine. Same as in Congress; the day they all get along, as a nation, we're through."

Nevertheless, those arguments can make the jury's job more difficult. In an age of social media and Internet searches, it's easier than ever for jurors to run afoul of the rules, Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of the Center for Jury Studies, said in an email.

"I suspect that there is a great deal more 'misconduct' that goes on under the radar of judges," she said, "so we're probably not seeing as many hearings as there ought to be."

Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.