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Respite Due Thursday Also : Penn Trial Deliberations Delayed by Ailing Juror

Times Staff Writer

Weary jurors deliberating in the Sagon Penn murder trial were given Tuesday afternoon off, the first of two breaks this week approved by a Superior Court judge.

Juror Gerald Webb, who has a stomach ailment, received permission from Judge Ben W. Hamrick to visit a doctor Tuesday. Hamrick also canceled deliberations for Thursday morning so juror Lynn Decker may attend his son’s high school graduation ceremonies.

Hamrick said Tuesday he would suggest to jurors that they deliberate Saturday to make up for lost time, but the request apparently was not well-received. The jury is not scheduled to work Saturday.

Deliberations in the trial have been interrupted repeatedly. Penn, a 24-year-old black man, is charged with one count of murder and three charges of attempted murder for fatally shooting Agent Thomas Riggs and seriously wounding Police Agent Donovan Jacobs and Sarah Pina-Ruiz, a civilian observer who accompanied Riggs, on March 31, 1985.

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The jury began deliberations May 15 after nearly three months of testimony. On May 20, deliberations were delayed for a week to allow juror Vernell Hardy to recover after she delivered a baby at Kaiser Hospital.

The jurors missed another day when Kimberly McGee became ill. They took parts of two days off to make personal arrangements when Hamrick ordered them sequestered in a San Diego hotel on June 5. The judge canceled the sequestration on June 9.

The jury spent most of last week sitting in a courtroom listening to the reading of testimony from nine witnesses.

Since the jurors quickly reached a verdict on an attempted murder charge last month, there has been no indication that deliberations have been proceeding smoothly.

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The court announced May 20 that the jury had found Penn guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for running over Jacobs with a patrol car. The verdict was set aside a week later after Hardy told Hamrick from her hospital bed that she had second thoughts about the decision.

On Friday, Hamrick asked foreman Douglas Bernd if the jurors were making progress.

“We’re still talking,” Bernd said. “No black eyes on anybody, yet.”

Jacobs, whose left arm is paralyzed from being shot once in the neck during the shootings, had stopped Penn’s pickup when he spotted what he thought were members of a black gang riding in the bed.

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Numerous defense witnesses have testified that after Penn refused to hand over his driver’s license, Jacobs provoked him by beating him and using racial slurs.


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