Monday, July 15, 2024

Jury at stalemate in Danny Masterson rape trial; deliberations to resume after Thanksgiving

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After three days of deliberating behind closed doors, jurors in the Danny Masterson rape trial have been unable to reach a unanimous decision on any of the three counts filed against the actor.

Despite the stalemate, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo told the jury Friday to keep at it, ensuring that the weeks-long trial of the “That ’70s Show” actor would continue past the Thanksgiving break.

Jury deliberations are secret, but the group’s note to the judge offered a rare glimpse into their mindset and suggested that the 12-member panel could end up as a hung jury in the high-profile rape case.

In her note to jurors, Olmedo informed members they have been “deliberating for an insufficient amount of time” to declare being deadlocked.

Her decision means the jury will return to court Nov. 28 — after the Thanksgiving holiday — because of travel plans by at least five members.

The extended break is not uncommon, but it did prompt concerns from Masterson’s attorney, Philip Cohen.

“My concern, again, is what can happen and the risk that can happen over the next 10 days, given the circumstances of this case,” he said Friday in court.

For weeks, jurors heard testimony from Masterson’s accusers, who said the actor violently assaulted them in his Hollywood Hills home in the early 2000s.

Three women, all of whom were identified by their first name and last initial or first initial and last name, testified that Masterson had plied them with alcohol before assaulting them in the bathroom and bedroom of his home.

“Three victims … were forcibly raped by this defendant, Danny Masterson,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Reinhold Mueller said in closing arguments Tuesday, pointing at Masterson seated across the courtroom. “A man who was controlling, and a man for whom ‘no’ never meant ‘no.’ ”

The trial also has delved into the rules and tight community of the Church of Scientology, of which Masterson is a member.

Like Masterson, his three accusers were members of the church at the time of the alleged rapes. Two of the women testified they had delayed reporting Masterson, fearing that Scientology officials would sanction them for doing so.

In a statement, the church has denied protecting Masterson from the accusations and said it does not discourage anyone from reporting crimes against its members.

Olmedo limited testimony about the religion in Masterson’s trial, but Cohen argued that Scientology was the “elephant in the room.”

“We’ve heard Scientology over and over again. … It really became the go-to excuse. When someone didn’t remember something or something got contradicted, it became about Scientology,” he said in closing arguments.

He worked to convince jurors that the women’s stories did not line up and that they had banded together to create false accusations against his client.

The prosecutors’ case, he said, “ignored the blatant, obvious, overwhelming contradictions and fabrications that each Jane Doe has given you.”

Deliberations in the trial began Wednesday, and Masterson, his friends, relatives and attorneys have waited for a decision since.

Jurors have reached out twice before, including asking Thursday to hear back transcripts from a woman’s testimony.

On Friday, Cohen said the jury’s lack of questions suggested that members had reached a true impasse, and he asked Olmedo to reconsider her decision to continue deliberations.

“It doesn’t seem there’s a whole lot of confusion,” Cohen told the judge. “It seems like there’s just a significant disagreement.”

Olmedo disagreed and said the jury already had been admonished not to discuss the case with anyone or to watch or read any content about it, even during the holiday break.

Times staff writer Noah Goldberg contributed to this report.

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