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Metro Digest

Local News in Brief : Mistrial in Arson Case

July 26, 1988

A mistrial was declared Monday in the case of a man accused of setting a fire in a downtown Los Angeles apartment house that killed two children, a teen-ager and an adult.

Superior Court Commissioner H. Ronald Hauptman declared the mistrial in the five-month trial when jurors deadlocked after deliberating six weeks. Nine jurors voted to convict Augustine Morales, who was charged with four counts of murder and one count each of arson and burglary.

Prosecutors said they intend to try the defendant again. Morales, 23, was ordered to remain in custody without bail. He has been jailed for more than two years.

Authorities said Morales set the blaze to avenge the firing of his mother, who had been the building's manager.

Jury foreman Russ McMurtray said the three jurors who voted to acquit Morales believed police had coerced a confession out of him.

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