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Judge declines to declare mistrial in Dewey & LeBoeuf criminal case

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(Reuters) — The attorney representing Joel Sanders, the former chief financial officer of bankrupt law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf L.L.P., renewed his call for a mistrial on Thursday, saying he was worried the jury was feeling pressure to convict after 20 days of deliberations.

Judge Robert Stolz, who is presiding over the case in Manhattan criminal court, declined to order a mistrial.

Prosecutors and attorneys for the other two defendants, former Dewey Chairman Steven Davis and Executive Director Stephen DiCarmine, did not join in the call for a mistrial.

Mr. Sanders' lawyer, Andrew Frisch, said he was worried "the jury feels they have to convict someone of something to get out of here."

He also said that he did not believe Mr. Sanders' interests were the same as those of the other two defendants. The evidence presented at trial linked Mr. Sanders more directly to what prosecutors say were illegal manipulations of the firm's accounts.

"I'm not sure you're in such a different boat than your co-defendants," Judge Stolz said, noting that Mr. Sanders, like the other two, has already been acquitted by the jury of multiple counts of falsifying business records. "It might not be such a bad boat to be in, frankly."

The judge also said he had some "humane concern" for the jurors, given the exceptional length of the deliberations, at one point joking that he was worried about violating their Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

Still, he said he was inclined to let them continue deliberating.

"They are very invested in this process, themselves, clearly," Judge Stolz said of the jurors. "They have bonded with each other. They have bonded with the court. And I would not want to lightly take this decision away from them."

David Bookstaver, a spokesman for New York court system, said that to his knowledge the deliberations in the case were the longest in the history of the state's criminal courts, though there are no official records.

The three defendants are accused of using illegal accounting adjustments to mask the firm's teetering finances between 2008 and 2012 and convince lenders and investors, including Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc, that the law firm was still healthy.

The most serious charge they face, grand larceny, carries a sentence of up to 25 years in prison.

Dewey's 2012 bankruptcy was the largest ever for a U.S. law firm. It counted 1,400 lawyers at its peak.