Only two hours after they began deliberating, jurors in the 10-month-old "Twilight Zone" involuntary manslaughter trial requested Tuesday to review the searing film footage of the 1982 movie set helicopter crash in which actor Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed.
The 12-member panel also asked that a stenographer read back transcripts of testimony from four witnesses about the hiring of the children and the credibility of the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea Purwin D'Agostino.
The jurors' demands, which were quickly granted by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Roger W. Boren with the approval of attorneys for both sides, could lead to lengthy deliberations. The rereading of testimony could alone take 14 to 16 hours, Boren said.
The jurors, who heard testimony from 92 witnesses since last September, are to decide whether director John Landis and four associates acted with criminal negligence in the deaths of Morrow, 53; Renee Chen, 6, and Myca Dinh Lee, 7.
The three were killed during the filming of a mock Vietnam battle scene when struck by the helicopter, which crashed on them after being hit by the fireball of a special-effects explosive.
D'Agostino previously screened the footage, shot from six different camera angles, five times during jury field trips.
The jurors will review a videotape of the film in the jury room. Without attorneys or court officers present, the panelists will be able to view the footage repeatedly and freeze its frames by using a pause button on the tape machine, Boren said.
The jurors asked to rehear all testimony from the prosecution's first witness, production secretary Donna Schuman; a second production secretary, Cynthia Nigh; assistant casting director Marci Liroff, and Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary P. Kesselman, the former prosecutor.
Defendants' Joking Cited
Schuman, in her controversial stint on the witness stand, testified that before the tragedy, Landis and associate producer George Folsey, a co-defendant, had joked about "going to jail" for having illegally hired the children.
She also testified that she had given that information to Kesselman four years ago and that he had said he would withhold it from the defense.
But Kesselman, called by the defense, denied Schuman's allegations, contending instead that D'Agostino had sought to pressure him to support Schuman's statements. Indeed, Kesselman testified, he told D'Agostino that "if she was even implying or insinuating that I would commit perjury in this case, she had the wrong guy."
Liroff testified that she told Landis that his description of the scene, which ultimately proved fatal, sounded dangerous.
Attorneys, who are under a gag order, could not comment on the significance of the jury's requests.
The jury selected Lois Rogers, a North Hollywood homemaker whose daughter and cousin are lawyers, as foreman.