Judge refuses to declare mistrial in killings of 3 children


Even after receiving a pleading note from the jury yesterday afternoon -- Day 9 of deliberations in the trial of two Mexican immigrants accused of slashing the throats of three young relatives -- the judge presiding over the case refused to declare a mistrial.

"I can't let you go," Baltimore Circuit Judge Thomas Ward told the jurors. "We've all got a job to do."

Ward ordered them to return to the downtown courthouse Monday morning to continue deliberations in a trial that included five weeks of testimony, complicated DNA evidence and no clear motive.

Jurors indicated Wednesday that they believe they are deadlocked, and yesterday one sent a note complaining about how normal activities -- such as seeing a child come home from the first day of school Monday and paying bills -- are becoming increasingly difficult.

This jury is deciding the fates of Policarpio Espinoza, 23, and Adan Canela, 18, who are charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the May 27, 2004, deaths of an 8-year-old girl, her 9-year-old brother and their 10-year-old male cousin in Northwest Baltimore.

Before dismissing jurors for the weekend yesterday, Ward told them that he would be talking with them extensively Monday to get a sense of how much longer the deliberations will last.

A University of Maryland law professor said Ward "won't have much of a choice" if on Monday the jury still has not reached a verdict.

"I can't see how he could continue," said Abraham Dash, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal procedure. "Nine or 10 days of deliberations is pretty long even for a five-week trial."

Dash said that a judge typically will only keep a jury for a day or two after reading the Allen Charge, a prewritten statement that urges the jurors to do their best to reach a unanimous decision.

Ward gave them the Allen Charge on Wednesday morning, after they said they were hung. The judge called jurors into court yesterday morning to tell them he'd be glad to clarify any area of the law that may be confusing them.

Yesterday afternoon's lengthy note, written by the forewoman, was the jury's first communication to the judge since hearing the Allen Charge.

It read: "Can I get out early Monday, Aug. 29, 2005? It is the first day of school for my daughter. She gets out of school at 3:05 p.m. If this is not possible, it's okay.

"P.S. I do not want to leave here until we come up with a proper decision."

On the flip side of the sheet of paper is another note: "There are some of us on jury duty that are now without pay. They have used all their leave. So what are they to do regarding income? Bills?"

Several jurors shook their heads when Ward asked them whether they knew about the forewoman's latest note. The judge urged jurors to act as a group with regard to future questions.

The jury of 12 includes two machine operators, a steelworker, a delivery person, two social workers, a student, a librarian, a clerk, a homemaker and two people listed as a "specialist."

Although it is illegal for an employer not to grant leave for someone on jury duty, different companies and professions have different policies on how to pay people while they're on jury duty.

In Baltimore, jurors are paid $15 per day for their first week of service, and their pay jumps to $50 per day after that. This trial has spanned 37 days, so each juror has been paid almost $1,700 for his or her time.

Contrary to Hollywood movies, jurors don't snack on free lunches while they deliberate -- but they do get minor discounts at some local lunch spots such as Subway, Coffee Land and Impressed Cafe.

Jurors must also pay for their own parking or public transportation.

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