Jurors in the trial of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy accused of obstructing a federal investigation into alleged abuse of jail inmates indicated today they are hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict after less than a day of deliberations.
U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson read from the panel's note, in which the jury said it "cannot" and "will not" reach a verdict in the case of Deputy James Sexton.
On Tuesday, the sixth day of trial, the panel began discussions about 11 a.m., called for a read-back of testimony in the afternoon and went home before 4 p.m. The jurors went back behind closed doors at 8 this morning, requested another read-back, and threw up their hands before noon.
Defense attorney Thomas O'Brien immediately called for a mistrial based on what he called the "rather forceful note."
The judge responded that it was "a little soon" to allow deliberations to cease.
Anderson then brought the jurors into his courtroom, telling them they would be taken out to lunch and allowed some fresh air to "hopefully clear your minds" before resuming discussions.
Jurors looked glum at the news.
The trial centers on whether Sexton tried to impede justice by using the jailhouse computer system to falsify or omit identifying characteristics of an inmate who was working as an FBI informer, in effect "hiding" the prisoner during a two-week period in August 2011 when federal officials wanted to interview him.
Sexton, 29, is charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He is the first of 20 current and former sheriff's deputies charged in February with corruption and civil rights offenses to face a jury.
The deputy did not testify, but jurors heard Sexton's own words in read- backs of testimony he gave to a grand jury investigating allegations of jailhouse corruption.
Prosecutors contend Sexton willingly joined a cabal of jail guards in efforts to keep inmate-informer Anthony Brown from appearing before a federal grand jury.
The defense argued that Sexton was merely following orders from then- Sheriff Leroy Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka to isolate Brown, question him and keep him away from outsiders.
—City New Service