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Jury Still Weighing Death in Dally Case

April 24, 1998|TRACY WILSON

For a second day, the jury weighing a possible death sentence against convicted killer Michael Dally deliberated without returning a verdict in the penalty phase of the case.

The jury, which is being bused daily from Santa Barbara to the county courthouse in Ventura, is expected to continue its discussions today.

Jurors must decide whether Dally, a 37-year-old former grocery store clerk, should be given the death penalty or life in prison for plotting the 1996 murder of his wife, Sherri, with his girlfriend, Diana Haun.

Haun was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy last fall and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After a seven-week trial, Dally was found guilty April 6 of the same charges in addition to two special circumstances making him eligible for the death penalty.

Earlier this week, Dally took the witness stand during the penalty phase of his trial and told jurors that he played no role in his wife's murder. Prosecutors seized on his decision to testify, keeping him on the witness stand for two days of harsh cross-examination.

After closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday morning, jurors began deliberations in the high-profile case. The jury met Wednesday for about 4 1/2 hours and deliberated for another 5 hours Thursday.

By comparison, it took the jury five days last month to reach a death verdict for convicted killer Michael Johnson, who gunned down a Ventura County sheriff's deputy in July 1996.

A Ventura County jury deliberated for only seven hours in 1995 before deciding that murderer Mark Scott Thornton should be sent to death row. Thornton was found guilty of fatally shooting a Westlake nurse in 1993.

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