Jury promises diligence in lengthy note to judge

Members were scolded day earlier for not focusing on deliberations


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August 24, 2005|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Jurors deciding the fate of two men accused of killing three children last year in Northwest Baltimore began their deliberations yesterday by penciling a note to the judge to assure him that they are working hard.

The lengthy note came a day after Circuit Judge Thomas Ward scolded the jury because he'd heard that some jurors were listening to headphones, doing other work and sitting away from the table.

Yesterday was Day 6 of deliberations in the trial of Policarpio Espinoza, 23, and Adan Canela, 18. There have been no signs that the jury is close to reaching a verdict, nor have there been questions recently to indicate that they're deadlocked. Instead, the note yesterday seemed to signal that they'll need more time:

"We the jurors submit to the court that: We are continuing to diligently work towards reaching a fair and unanimous verdict with regard to the defendants. ...

"Please note that each juror is contributing whole heartedly in this deliberation process with much effort.

"Also note that, due to the abundance of evidence provided, this is a laborious task that we intend to undergo until we have concluded deliberation."

That note was the jury's only written communication with the court yesterday. Ward read it aloud in court and then apologized to jurors for not being more "diplomatic" Monday. He said he has "nothing but admiration" for the work they've done during the long and complicated trial, which began with jury selection July 6.

Deliberations began with an apparent rift between the forewoman and Juror No. 9, but court officials have said the once-heated debate in the jury room settled significantly late last week.

But a bench conference Monday indicated there might be simmering animosity among some jurors. Ward told the prosecutors and defense attorneys during the conference, according to a videotape viewed yesterday, that one female juror had approached the jury commissioner Monday morning to express doubts that Juror No. 2 is a city resident.

It was not clear which juror spoke to the commissioner, or how she obtained information about Juror No. 2, but the commissioner investigated the claim and found that No. 2, a 46-year-old man, does live in the city. His apartment complex is on the city-county line.

Ward sent a note to jurors Monday to assure them that everyone deliberating is qualified to be on the jury.

Espinoza and Canela are each charged with three counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the May 27, 2004, deaths of Lucero Espinoza, 8, her brother, Ricardo Espinoza, 9, and their male cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada, 10.

Deliberations will continue this morning.

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