Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters said this afternoon that jurors have "deadlocked" in deliberations over the fate of Kareem Lane, the 37-year-old Pell City, Ala., man charged in the 1992 fatal stabbing of then-Muscogee County School District Superintendent Jim Burns.
After two days of deliberations, jurors informed Peters of the impasse through a note about 3:25 p.m., saying they hadn't reached a consensus. The judge did not divulge the vote and asked jurors to continue deliberating and try to reach a unanimous verdict. Jurors began deliberations Monday morning after eight days of testimony. They were dismissed for the day about 5:10 p.m. and were asked to return at 9 a.m. to deliberate further.
“We respectfully ask you to please go back into the jury room and consider the feelings and thoughts of your other jurors and try to reach a unanimous verdict either way," Peters said. "A mistrial means we have to possibly re-try this case. I know it seems to y’all you’ve been in there a good while, and you have. But compared to the length of the trial, please keep trying.”
"We'll try," responded one woman, who on Monday also spoke on behalf of the jury.
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Lane was charged with murder in May 2010 after authorities learned he couldn’t be excluded from a mixed DNA profile drawn from the knife that killed Burns. Prosecutors called witnesses over the past two weeks who testified they saw Lane’s pickup parked suspiciously just around the corner from Burns’ home about the time of the stabbing, but no witnesses placed him at the scene of the crime.
Police questioned Lane the night of the stabbing and found an empty knife sheath in his pickup that prosecutors say fits the murder weapon. Lane, who was a 17-year-old high school student at the time of the slaying, had been released after spending about 12 hours in investigative detention when detectives concluded they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him.
Lane did not testify in his own defense and called just one witness, a California DNA expert who underlined the uncertainty of the mixed DNA profile.
Jurors have asked several questions since the deliberations began. Earlier today, Peters read aloud for the jury the typed statement that Lane signed after an interview with Detective Karen Gaskins. On Monday, jurors had inquired about what changed in the case between 1992 and 2010.
Peters could declare a mistrial if jurors feel a consensus isn't within reach.