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After a day of mostly secret court proceedings in Alameda County, the judge presiding over the “Riders” police misconduct trial denied a defense motion for mistrial apparently stemming from allegations of juror misconduct. Early in the day, Judge Leopoldo Dorado convened a closed-door hearing — over the protests of lawyers representing news reporters — to address issues raised by a juror’s note last week. At about 5 p.m., Dorado reopened the courtroom and briefly admonished jurors to be collegial with each other and to refrain from name-calling. He then told them to return Monday for further deliberations. According to the lawyers, Dorado denied the motion for mistrial. But the motion itself remains under seal, and the attorneys in the case have been forbidden from talking about it. Dorado didn’t release a transcript of the day’s proceedings. Deliberations in the nearly yearlong trial came to a halt last week when defense lawyers moved for a mistrial on the basis of a juror’s note. Judge Dorado was scheduled to hold a hearing on the misconduct issue at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Shortly before the hearing began, he barred reporters from the session, saying their presence could further chill deliberations. More than a dozen journalists milled around the closed courtroom as District Attorney Tom Orloff slipped in and out through court staff entrances. The Recorder and several other newspapers were planning Tuesday afternoon to file an emergency writ today asking the First District Court of Appeal to order the hearing opened and the transcript released. Defense attorney Michael Rains said late Tuesday that he wouldn’t appeal Dorado’s decision on the mistrial motion. “The court’s ruling was well reasoned and within the law,” Rains told reporters. While he couldn’t discuss the grounds for the motion, he said it “was not routine.” For the past month, jurors have been weighing evidence in superior court against three fired Oakland police officers accused of 26 felonies. Charles Mabanag, Jude Siapno and Matthew Hornung are accused of beating suspects, kidnapping, falsifying police reports, conspiracy and making improper arrests. Authorities say the fourth member of the self-styled Riders, Officer Francisco Vazquez, is a fugitive. Jurors listened to testimony in the case for nine months. Dorado did allow some argument on the closing of the court. Media attorney Duffy Carolan said she argued that the judge’s actions were unconstitutional. Defense attorneys sided with Carolan, while prosecutor David Hollister took no position. The judge barred the public from the hearing on his own motion, said Carolan, who represents The Associated Press, the Oakland Tribune and KGO-TV. “The judge does not want the hearing open because he believes that it will chill the deliberation process,” said Carolan, a partner at the San Francisco office of Davis Wright Tremaine. She and another media attorney, Karl Olson, were preparing a writ for the First District. Olson, of Levy, Ram & Olson in San Francisco, represents The Recorder, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Sacramento Bee and the Contra Costa Times. Carolan said she suggested ways the court could offer limited access. She said she also suggested Dorado release a transcript of any closed hearings on the misconduct issue, but Dorado refused. During an afternoon recess, defense attorneys said jurors had not yet been questioned about the note because lawyers were arguing over the best way to probe about it without compromising deliberations. Dorado is weighing several questions, said defense attorney Rains. “How far does the court get into the internal processes of jurors? How far to get jurors to talk about another juror or how they feel about another juror?” said Rains, of Pleasant Hill. The revelations about the note came as the trial was winding down and caught the players in the case by surprise. According to the Oakland Tribune, Judge Dorado was on vacation, with Judge Vernon Nakahara sitting in his place, when the juror’s note was submitted. Hollister has already started his new job as a Plumas County prosecutor, so District Attorney Orloff made an appearance in his place. The hearing was set for Tuesday, when Dorado was back from vacation. Hollister returned to Alameda County to argue the issue. The Riders case has already cost the city of Oakland $11 million, which was used to settle civil rights suits filed by more than 100 people who said they were victims of the Riders and other cops. The city also agreed to overhaul police procedures to increase officer oversight. Sheriff Charles Plummer has told county supervisors his office has made plans to dispatch officers, if needed, once the jury reaches a verdict.

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