Judge declares mistrial after jury is deadlocked in Moncherrys' murder trial
Published: August 4, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - Curdilius Moncherry smiled Friday afternoon.
Both he and his brother, Gaius Moncherry, had shown little emotion all week as they listened to arguments about whether they killed a man in 2010 at Frydenhoj ballpark with malice or in self-defense. After almost 11 hours of deliberation, a jury of 10 women and two men told V.I. Superior Court Judge Brenda Hollar it could not decide.
"We the jury are deadlocked and are not able to reach a unanimous decision," Hollar read from a note the jury sent about 5 p.m. Friday.
The jury deliberated from about 4:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday and again Friday starting at 9 a.m.
Assistant Attorney General Ed Veronda told the judge he would not oppose allowing the jurors to continue their deliberations until later Friday evening. The Moncherrys' lawyers both said the judge should declare a mistrial based on the jury's note.
"If they deliberate further, personal pressure is brought to bear and that's not the purpose of a jury," Gaius Moncherry's lawyer, Leigh Goldman, said.
Hollar said she believed the jurors were "hung up" on whether the Moncherry brothers acted in self-defense. The brothers were both charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and first-degree assault, as well as related weapons charges for Curdilius Moncherry, in connection with the 2010 beating death of Kerwin Williams. According to witnesses, Williams slashed Curdilius Moncherry's throat with a knife before the brothers beat him with a baseball bat and a 2-by-4 board.
Earlier in the day, about 10 a.m., the jury had asked the judge to define second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, self-defense and first- and third-degree assault. The judge re-read part of her jury instructions, copies of which she did not allow them to take into the jury room, and sent them back for further deliberation.
About noon, the jurors asked whether they could be taken to the crime scene. Hollar denied the request on the grounds that the period in the trial for admitting evidence had concluded and that the ballpark had changed since the time of the crime.
After receiving the 5 p.m. note, Hollar polled each juror individually, asking, "In your opinion, is the jury hopelessly deadlocked and no further deliberation will result in a unanimous decision?"
The first juror asked Hollar to repeat the question, then hesitated a moment before answering in the affirmative. The other 11 gave the same answer.
Hollar discharged the jury shortly before 5:30 p.m. and declared a mistrial.
However, a complication arose when a court marshal found a signed verdict sheet in the jury room.
"I don't know what this means," Hollar said.
Hollar said it was possible the jury had reached a decision on one or two of the counts or had reached a decision but then changed its mind.
She immediately re-empaneled the jury and asked the jurors to clarify in writing the nature of their deadlock.
"We the jury are deadlocked on all counts," the jury wrote.
Veronda said he wanted to thank the jurors for their service.
"All I have to say is that I appreciate the jury's time," he said. "I think they really took their time and carefully considered the evidence. Clearly they were weighing the evidence to the best of their ability, and I appreciate their time, effort and consideration."
Veronda told the judge he intends to file paperwork early next week to re-try the case.
Goldman and Curdilius Moncherry's lawyer, Paula Norkaitis, declined to comment, citing the likelihood that they will have to re-litigate the case.
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.