Grand Rapids — Jurors said Friday they have reached a verdict on some counts in the case against four men accused of plotting to kidnap and hurt Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer but are locked on others.
Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker announced the development just before 11 a.m. Friday and encouraged jurors in federal court in downtown Grand Rapids to keep deliberating in hopes of reaching a unanimous verdict.
“It is not unusual to come back somewhere along the line of deliberations and say ‘we tried, but couldn’t get there,'” the judge said. “At least not on everything.”
The trial has lasted 20 days, including 13 days of testimony and approximately 35 hours of jury deliberations spanning five days. Jurors — six men, six women, all white — heard hours of closing arguments and instructions last week after testimony and a multimedia case from the government.
On Friday, Jonker likened the situation to the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” and the famous catchphrase “Is that your final answer?”
“Before that’s the final answer, I would like you to go back and make another effort to see if you can come to an agreement on issues you are stuck on as a group,” the judge told jurors.
The trial has coincided with jurors in federal court in Washington, D.C., hearing the first cases involving people charged in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Together, the trials provide the first tests of federal laws being used to punish extremist behavior that erupted nationally in 2020 and 2021 around the presidential election and pandemic.
In Grand Rapids, four men are on trial, charged with kidnapping conspiracy, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. They are: Adam Fox, 38, of Potterville, Barry Croft, 46, of Delaware; Lake Orion resident Daniel Harris, 24, and Brandon Caserta, 33, of Canton Township. Three are facing multiple charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Jurors entered the courtroom before 11 a.m. Friday without looking at the four defendants across from them. Some jurors sighed after hearing they would be sent back for more deliberations.
One young male juror leaned his head back, rotated his chair from side to side while looking up at the ceiling. Other jurors craned their necks or cleaned their glasses as the judge spoke.
Facing the jury, the four defendants were dressed in fresh suits and button-up shirts.
Harris had a book he’s had for three days, “Make Your Bed” by William McRaven. The blue softcover book is a summary of a commencement speech made by Admiral McRaven for the graduating class of the University of Texas in Austin, sharing 10 lessons he learned from Navy SEAL training. In a synopsis, the book covers how to deal with overcoming the trials of SEAL training and, in general, the challenges of life.
The defendants were arrested in early October 2020 and accused of hatching the plot due to distrust of the government and anger over restrictions imposed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two others, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, earlier pleaded guilty and testified during the trial, telling jurors the plot originated with the group and that they were not entrapped by FBI agents and informants. Eight others are awaiting trial in state courts on domestic terrorism charges.
During the trial, furors saw secret recordings of the bombs being built in Wisconsin, defendants firing weapons in rural Michigan, going on a night surveillance run past the governor’s cottage and griping about tyrannical government officials during a hotel meeting in Ohio.
Jurors also listened to recordings and read texts that suggested ways to assassinate Whitmer — everything from posing as a pizza-delivering assassin to hog-tying the governor and leaving her on a boat in the middle of Lake Michigan.
Come back to www.detroitnews.com for more on this developing story.