Lawyers in the double-murder trial of Randall Williams will get the rare opportunity to argue the case again today, one week after the jury began deliberations.
On Wednesday, the jury reported to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green that it was headed for deadlock. After receiving a list of the jury's questions, Green called on attorneys to reargue the case in open court.
Williams is charged with two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances.
Rearguments during deliberations are "very, very rare," said Orange County Superior Court Presiding Judge C. Robert Jameson.
Jameson said he has heard of such a case only two or three times during his 17 years on the bench. Green declined comment, and other Los Angeles judges could not be reached Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Williams' co-defendant, Kenneth Leighton, was convicted by a separate jury of first-degree murder with special circumstances, which made him eligible for the death penalty.
But just before the verdict was announced, prosecutors dropped their bid for capital punishment, declining to explain why. Nor would prosecutors say Wednesday whether they would continue to seek the death penalty for Williams.
Deputy Dist. Attys. Michael Duarte and Jessica Dabney successfully argued that Leighton planned the November 1998 execution-style shootings in West Hills of Jamie Navaroli and April Mahoney, both witnesses in a burglary case. Prosecutors allege that Leighton enlisted his friend Williams to carry out the killings.
Jurors in Williams' trial told the judge in writing Wednesday that for them to continue deliberating, they needed to find out more about Mahoney's dying declaration on her hospital bed, in which she allegedly identified a man named "Randy" as the man who shot her.
They questioned "the believability" of LAPD Det. Dave Szabo, an investigator on the case.
"Why did Det. Szabo go into the hospital room by himself knowing that he was going to take a statement from April Mahoney?" jurors wanted to know. "Why weren't there police officers at the hospital . . . guarding April when Det. Szabo interviewed [her]?"
Jurors also questioned the statements made by LAPD Det. Steve Galeria and the testimony of two other LAPD officers.
The prosecution and defense will each have 50 minutes to address those issues.
"If you have a jury that has been discussing a deadlock, why not?" said Sandi Gibbons, spokesman for the district attorney's office. "Isn't it better than going through the public expense of going through a new trial again?"
Earlier in the trial, prosecutors were reprimanded by the judge for withholding evidence from the defense.