By Susan Abram, Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/22/16 – 2:43 PM PST |
Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca walked out of federal court Thursday almost a free man after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked and a judge declared a mistrial in his jail corruption trial.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated almost three days to determine if Baca was guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The charges stem from an investigation into inmate abuse inside Men’s Central Jail in 2011. After hearing testimony from almost 30 witnesses, viewing emails from officials and watching video of L.A. County sheriff’s deputies intimidate an FBI agent, all but one juror remained unconvinced that Baca had anything to do with trying to thwart a federal investigation into inmate abuse.
U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson said he considered many factors before declaring the mistrial, including the complexity of the case, the time taken to deliberate, exhaustion and what he called an effort to coerce one of the jurors.
“I’ve taken all these factors into account,” he said, adding “the public is served by declaring a mistrial.”
After the judge’s declaration, Baca, 74, stood outside the downtown L.A. federal courthouse with his attorney Nathan Hochman, his defense team and wife Carol Chiang and said he felt great but he had felt just as good before the trial started. He thanked the jury for taking his case to heart.
“The nature of this jury’s intense scrutiny of the whole facts in the case was extraordinary,” Baca said. “This is what America thrives on — is jurors that really care.’’
Hochman said Baca protected and served the people of Los Angeles County for 48 years. He also was thankful that 11 out of the 12 jurors found the prosecutor’s argument “came up short.”
Should the prosecution choose to retry the case, Hochman said he and Baca looked forward to “vigorously contesting any charges in the future.”
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