Two of Manuel Noriega's jurors said they had reservations about the credibility of drug-smuggling witnesses who cut deals with the government, but chose to convict because witness after witness told the same story.
The jurors, quoted Saturday in The Miami Herald, said that they found the smugglers' testimony consistent with that of witnesses who had not plea bargained with the government and had nothing to gain by lying."It wasn't all bad guys," said juror James Hogan. "We heard from people from Colombia, people from Panama and we heard from U.S. drug agents. We looked at the overall picture, listening to everyone."
Juror Leslie Allen said that during the five-day deliberations, "a lot of people did think about whether some of them were saying things just to get lighter sentences.
"But so many of them testified mostly the same way - different incidents - but they would all come out the same out of 35 or more witnesses. And some of them weren't looking for anything because they didn't receive anything for their testimony."
Noriega defense attorney Frank Rubino denounced the government's plea-bargain witnesses as "scum of the Earth" in his closing arguments.
But prosecutors defended the use of their testimony, saying it is virtually impossible to convict top smugglers without evidence from the underlings who worked for them.
The two jurors said that during deliberations, they rummaged through boxes of documents and scrawled their thoughts on a blackboard, occasionally shouting one another down. They said some clutched the Bible, some cried, and all agonized over their decision, aware of its historic importance.