Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Jury Asks to Review Testimony : Courts: After 10 days of deliberation, jurors are split 7-5 in the trial of a martial arts expert accused of murdering a co-worker.
A deadlocked Los Angeles Superior Court jury Tuesday asked that the testimony of a martial arts expert accused of killing a nationally ranked female co-worker be read back to them, along with the testimony of the victim’s boyfriend, who the defense has accused of the crime.
The jury has deliberated for 10 days in the trial of Stuart Edward Milburn, 27, who is accused of strangling Veronica Estrada, 29, on Dec. 15, 1993, as she walked along a dark road toward her Canyon Country home. The latest court survey indicates jurors are split 7-5, although it is not known what verdict the majority favors.
If no verdict is reached, a mistrial will be declared and the case will be retried within 60 days.
“I would rather see that than a not guilty verdict, that’s for sure,” said Estrada’s sister, Theresa.
But Milburn’s attorney, Darryl Mounger, said his client is “scared to death” at the prospect of a mistrial.
“He’s been held for seven months without bail for a crime he did not commit and he can’t get them to decide he didn’t do this, which is scary,” Mounger said.
Deliberations have lasted longer than many expected. Judge Charles Horan, for example, showed up Tuesday wearing jeans under his black robe, having scheduled vacation time this week.
Jurors announced Friday that they were deadlocked 6-6, but Horan ordered them to continue deliberating. Another impasse declaration--this time by a 7-5 vote--came Monday afternoon, with jurors asking for a further definition of the term reasonable doubt .
They deliberated for a short time Tuesday, then sent a note to Horan just before 11 a.m. stating they wanted to have the entire testimonies of Milburn and Estrada’s boyfriend, Eddie Hockaday, read to them.
The prosecution has alleged that Milburn killed Estrada out of professional jealousy because of her accomplishments, such as being named instructor of the year at Taekwondo USA, where they both worked. Estrada also was the American Taekwondo Assn.'s top-ranked female competitor in the second-degree black belt division.
Milburn testified during the trial that he respected Estrada’s tae kwon do skills, but not her leadership abilities. He also admitted that the two didn’t get along, but said that he did not kill her.
Three prosecution witnesses said they saw a man--identified from a photo lineup as Milburn--near the murder scene at about 8:15 p.m., about the time police believe Estrada was killed. However, a defense witness, another co-worker, said she saw Milburn put a Christmas card in her gym bag at the tae kwon do studio about 8:20 p.m.
Mounger has argued that Hockaday had a stronger motive and opportunity for the killing, since the couple had argued just before Estrada was killed. Hockaday also testified that he was driving along Soledad Canyon Road looking for Estrada, shortly after authorities believe she was killed.
Hockaday’s testimony was read back to the jury Tuesday afternoon. It is hoped that the reading of Milburn’s testimony, which could take two days, will begin today, depending on the availability of a court reporter.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Foltz said he “would find it a tad incredible” if jurors are trying to decide if Milburn or Hockaday committed the murder. Mounger said he “wouldn’t guess” what the jury is up to.
Jurors previously requested that the testimony of five other witnesses be read back to them by a court clerk.
Milburn faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder. He also faces a separate charge of sodomy.
He was acquitted by Horan during the trial of charges of attempted rape, plus special circumstance allegations of attempted rape and lying in wait.
. . . about the Antelope and Santa Clarita valleys. B7