Holy Land juror: ‘Too many holes’ in case / WFAA-TV

Rebecca Lopez/ WFAA-TV
October 23, 2007

DALLAS – After a judge declared a mistrial on most counts and one defendant was acquitted of all but one charge, one juror in the Holy Land trial spoke out about what he called an overwhelming, confusing and at times, scary trial.

Cheers of “God is great” in Arabic could be heard as a large crowd learned the news Monday. Mohammed El-Mezain, the original chairman of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, was acquitted of all but one charge. However, he could face prosecution on the remaining charge, and prosecutors said they plan to retry the case on the other charges where the jury reached no verdict.

The trial took two months, and jurors deliberated for 19 days. In the end, Williams Neal, one of the jurors, said they simply couldn’t find enough evidence to reach a verdict.

Neal said five defendants, nearly 200 charges and too much testimony doomed the government’s case against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

“It was confusion,” he said. “I think they just put too much on us to deal with.”

Neal said the government tried to scare them into a guilty verdict by showing them bombings in the Middle East.

“Some jurors were talking about 9/11, the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden and I was going, ‘What?'” he said.

The defendants, and the foundation itself, were accused of funneling money to Hamas, a known terrorist group. But Neal said in the end, the jurors couldn’t reach guilty verdicts based on the facts and evidence presented.

“[There were] too many holes,” he said. “They needed to patch those holes.”

While he said he couldn’t speak for the entire jury, he said on a personal level, he thought the case was politically motivated.

“They had an anonymous witness from the Israeli government,” Neal said. “He said in open court that he’s paid to be there. So, when you have these biases it seems political to me.”

Neal said most of the evidence centered around Holy Land’s dealings with Hamas and its leaders before it was branded a terrorist group by the government.

If prosecutors want a different verdict, Neal said they need to simplify their case and try the defendants separately.

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