BACA JURY HANGS
At approximate 2:15, Judge Percy Anderson announced that the foreperson of the jury in the trial of former sheriff Lee Baca had sent him a note notifying the court that the six man, six woman panel was unable to reach a verdict in either of the two charges of obstruction of justice.
Although Anderson did not announce anything about the make-up of the deadlock, two female jurors spoke to reporters and revealed that eleven of the jurors were firmly in the not-guilty column, while a single male juror held out for a guilty verdict and could not be persuaded.
When Judge Anderson asked the jury directly, none of the jury members indicated that more deliberation time would help them break the deadlock.
Later, after Anderson officially declared a mistrial, he gave a thank you speech to the jury, noting later that the panel had deliberated for more than 24 hours, and had listened to days and days of testimony beginning on December 7.
However the main reason there “was a manifest necessity to declare a mistrial,” Anderson told those remaining in the courtroom after the jurors exited, was that the foreperson had communicated that the “possible effects of coercion” may have been affecting one or more of the jurors.
“I believe that the “end of justice was served,” he said.
“It was a very difficult decision that we as the jury had to make,” said juror number 12, a female college student who declined to give her name, and who was quite emotional when she spoke about the jurors’ inability to get to a unanimous decision. “It was a very difficult decision that we as a jury had to make,” she said. “We did our best.” I don’t feel there was any evidence that Mr. Baca was guilty. Unfortunately we were able to set that in stone.”
A second female juror told a similar story, “I think it was clear to all of us. There was just nothing substantial at all. Nothing at all.”
This juror, Sheri, (she declined to give her last name) suggested there was tension between the lone juror who held out for conviction and the rest of the panel. “From the beginning I think it became clear to all of us, except for one person,” said Sheri. “The rest of the panel felt the hold out juror “had an agenda,” she said. “He said he was open to deliberation but he really wasn’t.”
As for Baca, “There was definitely no smoking gun there,” she said.
The former sheriff himself, who had been unusually upbeat throughout the trial, appeared shaken about the news that he had come so close to a complete acquittal.
Yet, thirty minutes later, Baca and his wife came out with his attorneys to make a statement and answer questions on the courthouse steps, his mood had turned nearly ebullient.
Lee Baca still faces a second trial for two counts of lying to federal officials. And the government could decide to refile on the obstruction charges, although it is unclear if they will considering the 11/1 split.