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Mistrial Declared as Jury Deadlocks in Kyle Case

Times Staff Writer

A mistrial was declared Monday in the murder trial of Ricky Kyle after jurors told a Los Angeles Superior Court judge that they were deadlocked 10 to 2 in favor of convicting the defendant of killing his millionaire father.

After 20 days of deliberation, jury foreman Marshall Lai told Judge Robert R. Devich that further discussions would be useless. Devich declared the mistrial after all of the jurors told him their positions on the first-degree murder charge would not change.

Kyle, 22, wiped a tear from his eye and hugged his wife, Kelly, and 8-month-old son, Justin, immediately after Devich’s decision. The defendant did not comment, but defense attorneys called the decision a “victory.”

“We are elated that the state failed to convince these fine jurors that Ricky Kyle committed a crime,” attorney Jack C. Pate said. “We anticipated an acquittal and we continue to anticipate it.”

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The prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Lewis Watnick, was crestfallen.

“We did have what I would consider overwhelming evidence,” he said. “Ten jurors thought it was a very solid case. If 10 believe it was sufficient . . . .”

Watnick said he believes the case will be retried. A hearing on that matter was set for June 21.

The two jurors who held out for acquittal said they believed Ricky Kyle’s testimony that he shot his father in self-defense after the elder Kyle fired a gunshot in his direction in the dining room of the Kyles’ Bel-Air mansion early on the morning of July 22, 1983. They also said they believed defense assertions that the defendant was an abused child, who was deathly afraid of his father.

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“I felt Henry Kyle was the one who shot first,” Marilyn Williams, a registered nurse from Carson, said.

“I felt he (Ricky) was an abused child and I think he feared for his life,” said the other holdout juror, Grace Williams, a Huntington Park retiree who is not related to Marilyn Williams. “I think that’s why he shot.”

Henry Kyle, 60 at the time of his death, was president of Four Star International Inc., a television and movie production firm, and had amassed a fortune in real estate holdings across the Southwestern United States.

Jurors said that on their first ballot, only two members felt that Kyle was guilty of first-degree murder. On subsequent ballots, six jurors favored a finding of guilty of first-degree murder, four wanted to convict him of second-degree murder and two--the Williamses--voted to acquit.

In the last week of deliberations, the four members who argued for second-degree murder agreed to change in favor of guilty on first-degree murder, but the two holdouts held firm, jurors said.

Master Plan Alleged

Prosecutors alleged that the killing resulted from a grand master plan laid out by Ricky Kyle and his brother, Scott, to gain their father’s multimillion-dollar estate. Scott Kyle has never been charged in the slaying.

Citing testimony from witnesses, Watnick said Kyle woke his father and drew him downstairs under the guise of hearing a prowler. In Ricky Kyle’s hand was a gun, given to him by his brother, Scott, Watnick said.

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Once the two were downstairs, Watnick charged, the defendant planned to kill his father and then escape to his nearby bedroom, to claim later that he was asleep when the killing occurred. But in the flurry of gunshots during the scuffle, the younger Kyle was struck in the elbow and was forced to blame the shooting on an unseen intruder, the prosecutor said.

Watnick called several witnesses who testified that Ricky Kyle had long spoken of killing his father, telling one that he had “to figure out the perfect murder.”

Map as Evidence

Kyle’s half-sister, Jackie Phillips, and her former fiancee, Henry S. Miller III, told the jury that young Kyle had confessed to the murder and had asked them to travel to Los Angeles to secretly retrieve his discarded gun. Entered into evidence was the map scrawled by the defendant to give directions to the weapon’s location.

Also testifying was Louis Douglas Halley, the defendant’s brother-in-law, who like Phillips and Miller, told the jury that Ricky Kyle had confessed during cocaine-smoking sessions nine months after the killing.

But the defense, in cross-examination and its summation before the jury, painted the witnesses as “drug addicts” and liars whose greed led them to perjure themselves in an effort to gain some of the estate’s money.

Defense attorneys called witnesses who testified to spates of violence in Henry Kyle’s past. Former girlfriends and business associates told the jury of incidents wherein Henry Kyle lashed out, often wordlessly, and struck them. Defense attorneys implied that the victim was the type of man who would shoot at his son in anger.

Ricky Kyle testified that he was afraid of his father, who he said had repeatedly threatened him and on occasion beat him.

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Witnesses Questioned

The two jurors who voted to acquit Kyle said they agreed with the defense’s criticisms of prosecution witnesses.

“I discredited a lot of testimony . . . due to motive and some of the discrepancies,” Marilyn Williams said.

But other panel members discredited Ricky Kyle’s testimony.

“I personally thought he kind of swayed his story to his benefit,” said Bruce Bauder, 32, a printing plant employee. “There were a certain amount of lies all the way through.”


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