Jean Marbella: What's going on in Dixon jury room?

I'm sure there will be a verdict today.

But then, I thought there was going to be one Monday, too.

The day had started on a positive note - literally. After the two previous days of deliberations in Mayor Sheila Dixon's criminal trial had ended with jurors referring to tensions and asking to go home, the first note from the jury room Monday morning cheerily noted "great progress."

Maybe it was just the nicotine withdrawal talking: The juror said he and his fellow members needed a short break - to think, to get a breath of fresh air and, in his and at least three other cases, to grab a cigarette.

They got their break, but we didn't get a verdict.

And I get another opportunity to be wrong.

With the jury out of sight most of the day, there's literally nothing much to go on. Into the vacuum of actual knowledge rushes mostly blind speculation.

Every note jurors send out looms larger than its actual length, which usually is a few words, sometimes punctuated with an air of desperation ("We need a break. Please.") or, once, a smiley face ("Can I have another sharper pencil? Please.").

What are they really saying (other than "please")? What aren't they saying? Who is holding out? Who is going along? And with what?

The notes often are small, comfort-related requests - for bathroom or smoking breaks or for aspirin or Tylenol for one juror's allergy headache. One juror noted that she attended an event in Hampden last week for the unveiling of the new pink flamingo sculpture, not realizing the mayor would be there. The juror said she exchanged no words with Dixon and wasn't sure "if the mayor even saw me." There apparently was some confusion over whether all juror notes should go through the foreperson - or "forelady" as she refers to herself. (Yes, Judge Dennis M. Sweeney said.)

As for the substance of their deliberations, there aren't many hints, beyond last week's notes concerning when intent has to be formed in the defendant's mind when it comes to theft and misappropriation.

Still, Doug Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor who has been following the trial, sees the notes as reflecting a forward progression.

"Monday was a productive day," he said.

Not quite as productive as the "great progress" note had him believing, mainly because it came two hours into the day's deliberation.

"The first three hours Monday morning are going to tell you if you have a verdict," Colbert said he was thinking earlier in the day. "You have had a full weekend to think about it."

Instead of a verdict, though, by mid-afternoon, another juror came up with a question that seemed to come out of left field. She wanted to know if a certain exhibit was supposed to have been stricken.

That set off a flurry in the courtroom - on one side of the room, the four prosecutors huddled together, while on the other side, six defense attorneys, two with laptops, huddled with their client, the mayor.

In the end, there was no disagreement - the exhibit hadn't been stricken - and all the huddling was basically lawyers speculating what the juror meant by the question.

Colbert took heart from the fact that the more recent jury notes didn't indicate any of the previous tensions.

"They have not reached the point where they're throwing their hands up," he said. "The jury is doing much better. It doesn't seem like it's a personal attack."

He speculates the jury has come to some sort of agreement on some of the five counts Dixon faces, but there are one or more who have questions about the remaining charges.

I'm pretty sure Colbert's right.

Unless I'm wrong.