Deadlocked Schlosser jury sequestered

Panel seeks to clarify its role, reviews husband’s testimony

McKINNEY – Jurors in the Dena Schlosser capital murder trial were sequestered Friday night after failing to reach a verdict in nearly 35 hours of deliberations.

Collin County sheriff’s deputies delivered suitcases to the jurors, who will reconvene at 9 a.m. today.

Jurors have been in a deadlock since Wednesday, when deliberations began to decide whether Ms. Schlosser is guilty of capital murder in the slaying of her baby.

The panel sent two more notes to the judge Friday in what appeared to be another attempt to reach a verdict.

Just before 2 p.m. Friday, the jury asked the court for the definition of the word “deliberation” and for clarification on the role of the jury. It was the 13th note sent to the court since deliberations began.

State District Judge Chris Oldner consulted Black’s Law Dictionary 7th Edition to provide the definition and quoted the court’s charge already given to the jury to explain its role.

“You are the exclusive judges of the facts proved, of the credibility of the witnesses and to the weight to be given their testimony, but you must be governed by the law you receive in these written instructions,” the charge reads.

Lead prosecutor Curtis Howard said he had never had a jury ask those questions.

“That’s the first time,” he said.

The deadlocked deliberations in the Collin County case are reminiscent of the case of a prominent public official in Louisiana several years ago.

Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards is serving a federal prison sentence for extortion. After his 2000 trial, Mr. Edwards argued on appeal that his conviction should be overturned because the judge dismissed a juror after deliberations began.

After the jury reached an impasse, the juror was dismissed for ignoring the judge’s instructions to discuss evidence with the panel. The jury quickly reached a decision after the dismissal.

James M. Murphy, a Dallas defense lawyer, said the events in Mr. Edwards’ federal case could not be applied to Ms. Schlosser’s state case.

“The judge has already read the charge to her jury,” Mr. Murphy said.

With one exception, Mr. Murphy said, dismissal of a juror at this stage would result in immediate discharge of the entire panel.

In Texas, the only excuse for proceeding with fewer than 12 jurors after the charge of the court is read to the jury is if one of them becomes so sick as to prevent the continuance of his or her duty.

“Even then, the deliberations may continue only if both sides agree to continue with 11,” Mr. Murphy said.

Also Friday afternoon, the jury sent its 14th note asking about Ms. Schlosser’s husband’s testimony, saying, “We need the testimony of John Schlosser when he spoke to Dena regarding the death of the baby.”

About 3 p.m., the court read the testimony back to the jury. In it, Mr. Schlosser said he called several times before she picked up, and he said he had never heard his wife speak in the tone she did – flat and emotionless. He also quoted his wife saying, “I cut Maggie’s arms off.”

Meanwhile, an alternate juror who was dismissed when the panel received the case said that she believes Ms. Schlosser was suffering from a severe mental illness when she cut Maggie Schlosser’s arms at the shoulders.

“I think she was insane,” said Linda Tucker, one of two alternate jurors dismissed Wednesday by the judge before deliberations began. “But I want to make sure she is not out on the street in a couple years.”

The jury of five women and seven men told Judge Oldner on Thursday that they were hopelessly deadlocked, and “no one is going to change their decision,” but the judge ordered them to continue deliberating.

Ms. Tucker, of Plano, said she believes the panel would have an easier time finding Ms. Schlosser insane if jurors could mandate that Ms. Schlosser remain in a mental hospital for a certain period of time instead of leaving it up to the judge.

She said she was also confused because the state indicated in closing arguments that Ms. Schlosser showed remorse the day of the killing. But Ms. Tucker said her recollection from testimony was that she didn’t show remorse or even realize what she had done until months later.

She said that if she were still on the jury, she would have needed the court to read back several parts of testimony, as the panel has asked several times during its deliberations.

She said she also believes Ms. Schlosser’s husband, John, and others involved in his wife’s care “failed” Ms. Schlosser.

“Did they fail her? I’d say so,” Ms. Tucker said. “Where was her husband?”

Howard Shapiro, Mr. Schlosser’s attorney, was at the courthouse Friday for another case. When approached for comment by reporters, Mr. Shapiro said Mr. Schlosser did not block his wife from getting psychiatric care.

“I don’t think it has merit,” Mr. Shapiro said of accusations during the trial from both prosecutors and the defense that Mr. Schlosser kept his wife from proper medical care while she was suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis. “I don’t buy into it.”

Mr. Shapiro did say that in retrospect, Mr. Schlosser might have done some things differently given what happened.

Staff writer Bill Lodge contributed to this report.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Dallas Morning News, USA
Feb. 25, 2006
Jennifer Emily

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday February 25, 2006.
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