With jurors deadlocked 11-1 for conviction, a Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the trial of convicted narcotics dealer Adel (Eddie Nash) Nasrallah in the bludgeon murders of four people nearly nine years ago in a Laurel Canyon drug den.
Prosecutors immediately promised that the 60-year-old Nash will be retried. Judge Curtis Rappe scheduled a May 30 hearing to consider a new trial date.
Lawyers on both sides expressed disappointment that jurors had been unable to reach a verdict after nearly four months of testimony and 3 1/2 days of deliberation.
Nash showed no emotion when the mistrial was announced and was returned to jail, where he is being held without bail, to await the hearing.
Tuesday’s mistrial did not affect the deliberations of another jury considering murder charges against Gregory DeWitt Diles, 41, a former Nash bodyguard who is also accused of the four slayings. Under an unusual arrangement, Nash and Diles were tried simultaneously before Rappe with two separate panels considering only the evidence against a designated defendant.
Both Nash and Diles are accused of slaying William Deverell, 42, Joy Miller, 46, Barbara Richardson, 22, and Ronald Launius, 37, in a house on Wonderland Avenue in the early hours of July 1, 1981.
A survivor, Susan Launius, 25 at the time, suffered brain damage and has been unable to identify her assailants.
Prosecutors charge that Nash, then a wealthy nightclub owner, ordered the murders in retaliation for a robbery at his Studio City home about 40 hours earlier.
Before Tuesday’s mistrial, Rappe was advised by note that one of the jurors refused to follow the court’s instruction to consider circumstantial evidence and therefore the jury was deadlocked.
But before accepting foreman Robert Burke’s opinion that the panelists would be unable to reach a decision on Nash’s guilt or innocence, Rappe sent them back to decide whether there was a chance that further deliberations might result in a verdict.
Burke led the jurors back into the courtroom a few minutes later, however, and told Rappe, “There is nothing that’s going to change anything.”
Later, outside court, Burke told reporters that the jury was deadlocked 11-1 for conviction.
“One juror did not feel that the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Burke declared. “I thought he was guilty myself.”
“Personally, I believe he was not guilty,” the holdout, Shaunte Taylor, 18, of Los Angeles, told reporters. “The prosecution did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Taylor described prosecution witnesses as “liars” who testified in exchange for favors, such as shorter sentences in other cases. The young woman said she withstood great pressure from fellow jurors, who wanted her to change her mind.
“I’m very disappointed,” said defense attorney Jeff Brodey. “I hate to have to try this again.”
Deputy Dist. Atty. Dale Davidson said the mistrial represented four months of work “down the drain.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “We’ll try again.”
After years of insistence that they knew who committed the Laurel Canyon murders, authorities formally charged Nash and Diles two years ago, alleging they had unearthed new evidence.
The murders were originally blamed on pornographic film star John C. Holmes. Holmes was acquitted in 1982 and died in 1988 of complications from AIDS.