Team catches positive vibes from the jury (Oakland Tribune) 

Team catches positive vibes from the jury (Oakland Tribune)

Lengthy deliberations, question about awarding damages stirs excitement
By Paul T. Rosynsky, STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO -- As the jury in the Oakland Raiders' $1.1 billion fraud trial enters a third week of deliberations, each question it sends to the case judge is being analyzed by courtroom observers for clues to a possible verdict.

Since getting the case Aug. 6, the jury of nine women and three men has asked 10 questions covering almost every aspect of the trial. And with each question comes a flurry of speculation from attorneys for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum board and the Raiders, who are facing off in the case.

So far, that speculation has surrounded the length of deliberations and the last jury question, which focused on testimony given in the trial about how damages should be awarded.

That question and the time jurors are taking to deliberate are being seized by the Raiders' attorneys as something to cheer about.

"It demonstrates that they are being thoughtful and that they are going over the evidence carefully," Raiders attorney Roger Dreyer said Monday. "This is not something you can figure out in a day or two ... it takes a long time."

Attorneys for both the Raiders and the Coliseum board agreed earlier this month that a quick jury decision most likely would favor Oakland and Alameda County. Determining that the Raiders' fraud claim was unfounded should be easier than concluding otherwise, they reasoned.

Coliseum board attorney James Brosnahan refused comment Monday.

The jury is being asked to answer 44 different questions on six separate verdict forms.

Those six forms cover the Raiders' fraud claims against the Coliseum board, Dublin businessman Ed DeSilva and accounting firm Arthur Andersen. The Raiders claim they were lied to about the status of ticket sales when team owner Al Davis signed a 16-year lease to play in Oakland in 1995.

The Raiders claim those alleged lies were made by Coliseum board members; DeSilva, who was the board's leading negotiator with the Raiders in 1995; and Arthur Andersen, which was in charge of tabulating ticket applications.

As a result, the team claims it lost more than $800 million in revenue and franchise worth from not having stadium sellouts it purportedly was promised.

In addition, the verdict forms ask the jury whether the Coliseum board acted in bad faith when negotiating the 1995 deal to bring the Raiders back from Los Angeles. One form asks the jury whether the team waived its right to claim fraud by signing an amendment to the master agreement in 1996.

Earlier questions asked by the jury focused on the possible waiver and what would constitute the Coliseum acting in bad faith.

The jurors wanted to know how a decision on the waiver issue would affect a damage award. And they wanted to know when deciding on good-faith dealing whether they should factor in verbal promises the Coliseum board made to the Raiders on June 23, 1995, when the team signed a letter of intent to return to Oakland.

While both those questions were technical in nature and revealed little about how the jury was proceeding, the question they asked last week apparently excited the Raiders legal team.

The jury asked whether it could read trial testimony from two experts who spoke about the status of the Raiders' franchise value.

Those experts, one called by the Raiders and the other by the Coliseum board, predicted what the team's franchise value would be in 2010 had it sold out the Coliseum stadium throughout the Raiders' 16-year stay in Oakland.

Although the Raiders expert said the team lost more than $800 million in franchise worth, the Coliseum expert said it was impossible to predict future team worth.

Despite the questions, many agree it is impossible to predict how a jury might decide.

"You can't read much into this," Dreyer said. "You've got 12 people who are approaching things from 12 different ways."


What do you think the jury will conclude?

I'm not an attorney, but I have been around many and also planned to go to law school before starting SBS. With that, I will observe that if the jury is taking this long, it's because there are 44 question to answer.

Given what I know of this issue, my prediction is that the jury will conclude there was not sufficient evidence of fraud, but there were questionable practices on the part of some Coliseum staffers and public officials.

I think the jury will issue some kind of award, but it will stop short of permitting the Raiders to break their lease. Hopefully, the jury will force the two sides to work together for the first time since 1996.


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