Comments Off on Judge declares mistrial after jury can’t agree on life or death sentence for convicted murderer

SAN BERNARDINO – A Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Thursday after a jury that was deliberating about the sentence for convicted killer Samuel Charles Wright announced they were deadlocked.

Judge Brian McCarville received notes from the jury late Wednesday and Thursday morning reporting the impasse at 7-5. After polling the jurors individually, two jurors said additional arguments from the lawyers may help break the stalemate.

The eight-woman, four-man jury was deliberating in San Bernardino Superior Court whether Wright should receive the death penalty or a life sentence in state prison without the possibility of parole.

Lawyers on each side gave another 15 minutes of oral argument before the jury Thursday afternoon to help break the split. But the jury quickly came back again, this time deadlocked at 6-6, and McCarville declared a mistrial.

“It tells me that six people were not going to go death,” said one of Wright’s two lawyers, Donald Jordan. “And I think one of the attitudes that the jurors expressd to us later, was what happened, as tragic as it was, was out of character for Sam.”

Lawyer Chuck Nacsin, who also represents Wright, delivered the additional argument for his side. Nacsin could not be reached later for comment.

Wright and his co-defendant, Jonathan Craig Holeman, were convicted of killing John Painter, 87, and his 58-year-old daughter, Barbara Martin, on Fathers Day 2002 in their lakefront vacation home in Lake Arrowhead.
The mistrial in the penalty phase of Wright’s trial does not affect the verdicts and conviction in the guilt phase, lawyers said. Wright returns to court April 29.

The District Attorney’s Office must now decide whether to retry the penalty phase or settle for a life sentence for Wright, explained prosecutor Robert Bulloch.

A separate jury for Holeman unanimously recommended on March 7 that he receive a life sentence in state prison.

The jury’s note to the court on Thursday morning did not indicate which way it was leaning, toward life or death.

“Your honor, we’re hopelessly deadlocked at 7-5,” the jury foreman wrote. “We believe we have exhausted all possible arguments and discussions.”

In his argument, Bulloch focused on the stark brutality of the killings and a lack of any mitigating evidence that lessens the enormity of the crimes. While Wright had a difficult childhood, he wasn’t tortured, abused or beaten, the prosecutor said.

“Ladies and gentlemen, do justice for Mr. Painter. Do justice for Ms. Martin. Hold that man accountable,” Bulloch said.

Nacsin encouraged jurors who voted for a life sentence to stick to their right to do so, in his argument. He urged the others to choose life and recall how Wright cared for his family when it was disfunctional.

“What is such a great need to kill him when he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Nacsin said.

Wright and Holeman, both 22 at the time, were at Painter’s home to do cabinet work and odd jobs around the house. Wright had worked for Painter for seven years.

Both men were methamphetamine addicts, according to their lawyers. Prosecutors say they wanted Painter’s money and planned to kill the victims. The men forged checks from Painters bank account.

The defendants were convicted of two counts of first-degree murder, burglary, robbery and taking the victims’ car.

http://www.sbsun.com/news/ci_17639293

Comments are closed.