The Words of the McKenzie Family

Judge Halts Inquiry Into Misconduct Of Rev. Moon Jury

Hal McKenzie
October 1982
News World Staff

The judge in the tax evasion trial of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon abruptly terminated an inquiry into allegations of jury misconduct even though they were based on the sworn testimony of a former juror and partly corroborated by other jurors questioned, it was revealed yesterday.

Former juror Virginia Steward testified that jury forewoman Mary Nimmo told the other jurors she believed that Rev. Moon, founder of the Unification Church, brainwashes and exploits children for sinister purposes.

Nimmo also discussed with the other jurors a newspaper article about the trial last May, disobeying the judge's strict instructions not to read anything about the trial during deliberations, Steward testified.

Steward also charged that another juror, Esperanza Torres, told jurors that incidents in which she was shot at by a BB gun and her car rammed from behind "might be one of Rev. Moon's people trying to get to the jury."

The allegations came to light yesterday as court transcripts of eight nighttime court sessions at U.S. District Court in Manhattan, before U.S. District Judge Gerard Goettel, were released. The sessions were held in secret so as not to influence other jurors who might be questioned, but the record was made public yesterday. Goettel ended the sessions Wednesday, although he had heard from only three jurors.

A Unification Church statement said Steward's sworn testimony included the following charges:

Several Charges

Nimmo told other jurors that, in her view, Rev. Moon and his church were "guilty" of "brainwashing" and exploiting children for sinister purposes and that she knew one of Rev. Moon's own children to be a "troublemaker."

A juror named John McGrath, in response, urged the forewoman not to be "prejudiced."

Torres spoke in the jury room about mid-trial incidents in which she was shot at with a BB gun and her car rammed from behind. Tones said these incidents "might be one of Rev. Moon's people trying to get to the jury."

Nimmo also discussed with other jurors a "prejudicial" newspaper article she and her daughter had read reporting Goettel's disparaging remarks about the competence of the jury.

When Nimmo was called to testify before Goettel about the charges, she said all the jurors "pretty much" obeyed "the rules" and denied ever having discussed with other jurors brainwashing or Rev. Moon's children.

Confirmed Testimony

However, she confirmed Steward's testimony about McGrath's admonition not to be prejudiced, the jury discussing the newspaper article contrary to Goettel's instructions, and the discussion about Torres' fears about Rev. Moon's followers attacking her.

The third juror Goettel questioned -- McGrath -- testified he could recall only the matter of the newspaper article but not the other incidents. The defense counsel asked Goettel to question other jurors who could corroborate Steward's testimony, but the judge refused to permit any further inquiry.

In particular, Goettel refused to permit questioning of two other jurors specifically named by Steward as witnesses who could confirm her version of the events she testified to, the statement said.

Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional specialist heading up Rev. Moon's appeal, demanded a retrial based upon the "grave improprieties" the inquiry had already revealed, but Goettel denied the motion.

Defense lawyers plan an immediate appeal on top of the one already pending, which claims that the trial violated Rev. Moon's First Amendment and due- process rights under the Constitution.

'Can Of Worms'

Yesterday Goettel, explaining his decision on what he called "this whole can of worms," said the evidence came to light through "a rather sleazy, unattractive situation."

Bierman called Goettel's reasoning for the decision "hard to fathom," but said, "it appeared pretty clear that he didn't want to upset the verdict."

Bierman said: "There are certain discrepancies in [the three jurors'] testimony that would warrant further inquiry. A couple of other jurors could have corroborated or refuted the charges but he didn't investigate. He left it all very unclear." 

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