VERO BEACH — Jurors in the Ira Hatch theft trial will begin deliberating 45 felony charges against the disbarred lawyer on Friday after having spent the better part of Thursday listening to 100 pages of instructions from the judge.
The vast majority of the charges were repetitive, as more than 40 of the counts charge some level of grand theft. The reading of each count included legal definitions, names and amounts of alleged victims, bank account numbers and dates that the money was on deposit with Coastal Escrow.One male juror briefly fell asleep during the after-lunch portion of the reading and could be heard snoring in the courtroom.
Earlier in the day, attorneys argued whether or not file folders could be used to organize documents in evidence to make it easier for the jury to locate specific records or copies of checks. The state presented an appellate case supporting the use of the folders.
As a compromise, defense attorney Gregory Eisenmenger was allowed to add his own evidence to the folders in the appropriate places. The paper shuffle will continue out of the presence of the jury now that they have been excused for the day.
Eisenmenger could also be seen using a dry white correction tape dispenser to cover up some things that were written on the folders.
After the reading of the charges, Senior Judge James Midelis continued by explaining reasonable doubt and issues relating to evidence to the jury.
“It is up to you to decide which evidence is reliable. You should use your common sense,” Judge Midelis said.
Judge Midelis explained the rules that the jury must follow to return a “lawful verdict.” “This case must not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry for anyone or are angry at anyone,” he said. “The attorneys are not on trial in this case.” He told the jury that the arrival at a verdict is their responsibility alone. Judge Midelis also asked the jury to disregard anything that he may have said or done during the trial that might sway them one way or the other. Because a guilty verdict on some of the charges, such as the racketeering and money laundering, require the jury to find Hatch guilty of some of the theft charges, Judge Midelis explained how some of the charges are linked.Senior Judge James Midelis released jurors at 4:33 p.m. to return at 9 a.m. Friday to go over the verdict form and retire to the jury room.
The six-member jury must be unanimous. A hung jury that cannot decide on a verdict could result in a mistrial.
During the lunch break on Thursday, Eisenmenger predicted a quick, guilty verdict and said he had been trying the case in preparation for appeal “since the beginning.”