By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, July 17) — At 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, after nearly seven hours of deliberations, a four-person jury returned the verdict on Louiston Louis: guilty on 74 counts of grand larceny and cheating, and not guilty on 24.

The largest embezzlement case in Marshall Islands history seemed to have finished on a high note for the prosecution, with the jury returning a guilty verdict on $505,488.97 of the total $641,600.80 that Louis was alleged to have stolen from 1999 to 2002 while he was the comptroller at the College of the Marshall Islands.

But all of a sudden a major problem surfaced as acting Chief Justice Carl Ingram polled each juror to confirm that they individually agreed with each of the guilty and not guilty verdicts.

Ingram had gone through counts one-to-70 and each of the four jurors — foreman Aititi Hiram, Daisy Edwards, Mieko Berdo and Miriam Aititi — had confirmed their decisions. But when Ingram asked Edwards about the guilty verdict on counts 71-78, she responded, "I’m not sure." Then on the final guilty counts 81-98, she responded that she agreed with "some of them."

At this point, Ingram returned counts 71-78 and counts 81-98 to the jury for it to review and come to agreement. By this time if was nearly 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and the jury decided to break for the night and return the next morning. They started deliberations again at about 9:45 a.m., Wednesday.

Louis’ defense attorney David Lowe on Wednesday morning also moved for Ingram to declare a mistrial. Late last week after three weeks of trial, Lowe had asked the judge to dismiss the case on the basis that the government had not proved a case against Louis. Ingram rejected the earlier motion.

The jury has confirmed that Louis is guilty of stealing checks worth $214,743.02.

As of Tuesday night, he was found not guilty of the charges for $136,111.83 in checks.

The additional 26 counts — for which the jury originally found him guilty on Tuesday but that were still being decided by the jury on Wednesday — amount to $290,745.95.

July 17, 2003

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