Thursday Jun 26 2008
BREAKING NEWS: Salcedo jury deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of acquittal
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
Second mistrial declared
The jury in the case of a babysitter accused of causing the death of 15-month-old Hannah Juceam told the judge they were “hopelessly deadlocked” Thursday afternoon. The two-month trial ended with the jury deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquittal of Veronica Martinez Salecdo. Judge Colleen Nichols declared it a mistrial. Salcedo was charged with assault causing the death of a child in the death of Hannah. The prosecution contends that Hannah died as a result of brain injuries caused when Salcedo shook the toddler. The defense argued that a virus caused Hannah’s death. This was the second trial for the former babysitter. The first trial ended in October with the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of guilt. Thursday morning the second jury met with Nichols to inform her they were at an impasse. Nichols asked the jury to return to deliberations and try again. She instructed them to meet with her again no later than 3 p.m. the same day. The jury reconvened at around 3 p.m. to inform the court that they still could not make a unanimous decision. When Nichols asked if there were anything further the court could do, the jury foreman said she thought the court had exhausted itself. In the courtroom, Nichols asked if the jury’s final vote had changed earlier. The jury foreman said before the jury was sent back, the vote was 8 to 4. Nichols asked each individual juror if they agreed the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and further deliberations would not bring a verdict. Eleven of the 12 jurors immediately said yes. One juror initially hesitated, but said if everyone else felt further deliberations would not be productive, then she agreed. Upon the jury’s response, Nichols declared a mistrial. She then thanked the jury for their service. “Thank you for your service, attention and dedication,” Nichols said. “I know you’re all exhausted.” Outside of the courtroom Thursday afternoon juror JoAnn, who declined to give her full name, said she voted in favor of acquittal. “The worst part of all was not being able to reach a verdict,” JoAnn said. “We just weren’t able to do it.” She said she thought there was no key evidence that proved Salcedo was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. She said the state “did their best” and she remained open-minded throughout the trial. Another juror said there were simply differences of opinion on the jury. Carol, who also declined to release her full name, said there were several key pieces of evidence but thought the confession tape from the nanny was one of the more important ones. She added that she wished the jury could’ve reached a verdict. “It was very difficult,” Carol said. “I was particularly willing to try (to reach a verdict). I felt obligated to the court to come to a consensus.” Several other jurors approached outside of the courtroom declined to comment. The Salcedo family and their supporters declined to comment. Several members of the group were teary-eyed. Hannah’s parents Scott and Lorena Juceam were not present. Last week Scott Juceam was banned by Nichols from the courtroom for compromising the safety of defense attorney Mary Beth Acton. Scott Juceam was caught photographing and videotaping Acton in the courthouse. Acton said outside of the courtroom that the jury’s end vote was “much better for us.” She said during the second trial the defense was able to present better experts that she said proved Hannah had a blood clot in her brain. She said the clot and misdiagnosis led to Hannah’s death, and not any actions taken by Salcedo. When asked if she would defend Salcedo if a third trial were pursued, Acton emphatically said yes. “I’ll do it again,” Acton said. “I believe she’s innocent.” Acton would not comment on the restraining order she filed June 19 against Scott and Lorena Juceam after he was caught recording her. She also said she is not involved in a civil suit the Juceams filed against Salcedo May 13. District Attorney Brad Fennocchio said Thursday afternoon that the prosecution will wait until next week to announce whether or not it will seek a third trial. “We’re going to make the decision with a little detachment,” Fennocchio said. Prosecutor Jeff Wood said in talking with the jurors, he said it seemed they weighed the evidence differently in the second trial than in the first. Wood said, however, that he was happy with the way the prosecution presented its case. “I think we presented a stronger case this time,” Wood said. “As you can see, there’s no clear consensus on either side.” Wood said he spoke with Scott Juceam for “about 30 seconds” after the decision to inform him of the outcome. “He said, ‘I’ll talk to you later,’ but he did sound disappointed, which is understandable,” Wood said. Both sides will meet again in court on July 3, when the prosecution is expected to announce its decision about seeking another trial. Acton said she will wait until then to comment further on Salcedo’s future. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at email@example.com or post a comment.