2 jurors in Danny Masterson rape trial dismissed due to COVID; deliberations to restart
A pair of jurors in the Danny Masterson rape trial were dismissed Monday after testing positive for the coronavirus, setting the stage for a complete restart in deliberations.
After a weeklong pause in the case over Thanksgiving, the jury was set to return to its duties Monday. But the two infected jurors, who were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, had to be relieved and replaced by two alternates — meaning the jury has to entirely recommence deliberating.
The 12-person panel in the “That ’70s Show” actor’s case had already deliberated for 2½ days before the holiday and reported it was not near a verdict.
The jury informed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo on Nov. 18 that it was deadlocked, but Olmedo ordered the panel to return after Thanksgiving to continue deliberating.
Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen, objected to the replacement of the jurors, instead asking that the judge declare a mistrial in the case.
“We’re left with a situation, quite frankly, which is no surprise given what is happening with COVID,” Cohen said. “Now that jury that has spent 2½ days now starts anew with at least two new jurors.”
Women who accused actor Danny Masterson of rape testified that they waited to report him because they feared being excommunicated, like his stepfather was.
Prosecutors did not object to Olmedo replacing the jurors with alternates.
Masterson’s trial, which started in mid-October, featured harrowing testimony from women who accused the actor and Scientologist of violently sexually assaulting them at his Hollywood Hills home between 2001 and 2003.
The women testified Masterson plied them with alcohol and sometimes assaulted them as they drifted in and out of consciousness.
The replacement of the two sick jurors leaves just one other alternate available in case of conflict or sickness.
The 9th floor has seen many a celebrity trial. But with Weinstein’s and Masterson’s rape trials happening at the same time, the cast of characters is larger than usual.
Six alternate jurors were seated at the beginning of the trial, and five have now been called into action for different reasons. One alternate was seated on the jury earlier this month after attorneys and the judge agreed that one juror was falling asleep as witnesses testified.
“It appears that he is either dozing off or his eyes appear to be shutting. Especially today, what appear [to be] the sound of not fully snoring, but not sounds of being fully awake,” prosecutor Ariel Anson said at the time.
The juror was dismissed and replaced.
The number of alternates used already presents concerns, legal experts said.
“It’s very rare to burn through so many alternate jurors and given that so many people are coming down with cold & flu symptoms there is a high risk of a mistrial,” Lou Shapiro, a Los Angeles defense attorney, said in a text message.
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