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Jury unable to reach verdict in murder trial, deliberations resume Thursday

By LESLIE WILBER
Sept. 30, 2009 at 4:30 a.m.
Updated Oct. 1, 2009 at 5:01 a.m.


What's next

Jury deliberations continue at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Jurors deliberated for more than six hours, wrote as many notes to the judge and remained split 7-5 when at 5:50 p.m. Wednesday they broke for the day.

Judge Robert Cheshire told jurors in Stanford Harvey's capital murder trial they must deliberate more before he will declare a mistrial.

Harvey, 45, is charged in the 2006 death of Melba Lott, 42.

"Stanford Harvey is innocent," defense lawyer Frank Davila said in closing statements. "He wasn't even there. There is no evidence."

Lott's body was found in her apartment in March 2006. Her cause of death was originally listed as cocaine toxicity, but a second autopsy in 2008 determined homicidal violence played a role.

Lott's boyfriend, Bruce Hughes, was convicted of capital murder in her slaying earlier this year. Jurors this week never heard a key witness from Hughes' trial.

In the February trial, 21-year-old Amanda Jo Walters said she, Hughes and Harvey were all present the night Lott died. Walters stood outside while Lott screamed for help and the men beat her, she said.

But Walters refused to testify Tuesday. Hughes did testify, though, and told jurors he alone killed Lott. The couple fought on Valentine's Day 2006 over a dwindling drug supply, Hughes said.

While DNA and fingerprints linked Hughes to Lott's bloody Navidad Street apartment, Harvey's prints and blood were absent. What investigators first thought was a trail of blood leading to his apartment above Lott's was not.

The blanks in evidence and testimony prevented District Attorney Steve Tyler from presenting the same narrative he did during Hughes' trial. Tyler focused on Hughes' culpability in the murder and his unreliability.

"You were presented with enough evidence to make that decision," Tyler said during closing arguments. "Would you want more? Would investigators want more? Sure."

Evidence that remained included a phone call in which Harvey said, "Man, that's not how it went down, though."

Harvey was talking about Lott's murder, Tyler said. But Davila said his client was contesting reports of what happened in Hughes' trial.

Three women besides Walters also testified they heard Harvey talk about Lott's trial as though he was there, Tyler said.

During deliberations, jurors asked the court reporter to read back testimony from Clemencia Archangel and Stephanie Holt.

Archangel said Harvey told her he instructed Hughes to kill Lott.

Holt said a conversation with Harvey gave her the impression he was present for Lott's death, although he did not tell Holt who killed her.

During closing arguments, Davila said the women's criminal records and histories of using crack cocaine made their testimony unreliable.

"An addict would resort to any means to get liberated," Davila said, paraphrasing Archangel.

But the defense, too, had offered only the word of Hughes, a felon and drug addict, Tyler said.

The defense theory, he said, "Involves believing a crack-addicted, wife-beating S.O.B. that another jury found guilty. But please don't believe Clemencia Archangel. She uses crack cocaine."

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