For the fourth time, a Granada Hills man has been ordered to stand trial on a charge that he shot and killed his former girlfriend's date in 1984.
Although there is no limit on the number of times a case can be tried until a verdict is reached, Stuart R. Rappaport, a deputy public defender for 25 years who supervises about 250 public defenders in nine branch offices, said he could not recall a case going to trial four times in Los Angeles County without a conviction.
San Fernando Superior Court Judge Ronald S. W. Lew on Friday set a new trial date of Jan. 9 for Charles Ruben Stevens, 36, who is accused of ambushing Evans Lee Crawford, 29, outside Crawford's Granada Hills house in December, 1984.
Three previous trials ended in deadlocked juries. The first two trials ended 10 to 2 and 8 to 4 in favor of conviction. But, at the third trial, which ended Oct. 13, the jury deadlocked 9 to 3 for acquittal.
'Somebody Has to Say No'
"After three jury trials, there was certainly grounds for the court to dismiss the case," said Deputy Public Defender Paul Enright after the judge granted the state's request for another trial. "After you've had three shots, somebody has to say no."
But, Enright added, "No judge wants to be in the paper as having dismissed a murder case."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Janice L. Maurizi, the prosecutor for the second and third trials, said she recalled one California murder case that was tried six times.
A new prosecutor who has inherited the case, Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven D. Ogden, said he would not ask for a fifth trial if a jury deadlocks again.
"If you can't convince a jury after four trials, the case doesn't belong in court," Ogden said.
Jealousy Said to Be Motive
The prosecution argued that Stevens killed Crawford in a fit of jealousy and rage because Crawford was seeing Stevens' former live-in girlfriend.
After his arrest the night of the killing, Stevens lost his job at Continental Can Co. in Van Nuys and spent the next 15 months in jail, Enright said. Stevens finally posted $50,000 bail and was released after the second trial, Enright said.
Gun Was Stevens'
Maurizi said she believes there is enough circumstantial evidence to convict Stevens, despite the three deadlocked juries. The murder weapon was identified as a .22-caliber revolver that was a birthday present from Stevens' former girlfriend before they broke up.
But, after the third trial, jurors said they were troubled by some prosecution witnesses who seemed to know more than they had testified. Jurors also said they were influenced by testimony of a neighbor of Crawford who saw a man sprinting from Crawford's house after the shooting. The neighbor eliminated Stevens as a suspect after studying a photograph of him at a police station three weeks after the killing.
Ogden said the prosecution faces the problem of stale testimony from witnesses, some of whom already have testified four times, including the preliminary hearing.