[UPDATED W/PHOTOS] John Chamberlain Murder Trial: Jurors Reject First Degree Murder

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UPDATE, OCT 24, 6:10 P.M.: The jury in the case of five Theo Lacy Jail inmates accused of murdering John Chamberlain, the software engineer they suspected of being a child molester, may be hopelessly deadlocked, but they've agreed on one point: they cannot unanimously convict the defendants of first degree murder. In court this afternoon, they appeared stone-faced as they filed back into the jury room for what was left of the 10th day of so-far fruitless deliberation.

It remains to be seen whether the jury will be able to agree on any of the lesser charges--second degree murder, involuntary or voluntary manslaughter, or whether the jury will remain deadlocked, and if so, for how long, and for which, if not all five, defendants. However, prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh stated that in the event the jury does remain deadlocked, he plans to retry all of the defendants for second degree murder rather than offer them plea deals.

More info and see photographs of the five defendants in court today after the jump.... 

Defense attorney Fred Thiagarajah, who represents Stephen Carlstrom, remained cautiously optimistic that the jury will not be able to reach a guilty verdict against his client. But he expressed concern that the trial's duration may result in a rush to judgment now that first degree murder has been taken off the table. "I think there's a real danger of them just saying, 'We've been here 10 days; I just want to go home,'" he said.

"This case was over-charged from the first day," remarked Keith Davidson, who represents Jared Petrovich. "Not one of these guys should have been charged with first degree murder. Apparently it took $1 million of the county's money for the DA to figure that out."

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Miguel Guillen

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Stephen Carlstrom

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Jared Petrovich

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Raul Villafana

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OC Register pool photo
Garrett Aguilar

UPDATE, 3:38 P.M., OCT. 24: Despite the jury declaring that they have failed to reach a verdict after 10 days of deliberations, Judge James Stotler refused to declare a mistrial in the John Chamberlain killing and issued the jury a new set of instructions.

"You are no longer to consider first-degree murder, and you are now to consider second-degree [murder] and lesser charges," Stotler told the jury. "I'm going to ask you to return to the jury room and continue to deliberate. Those are the instructions."

ORIGINAL POST, 12:08 P.M. OCT. 24: After 10 days of apparently fruitless deliberation, the jury in the trial of five Theo Lacy Jail inmates accused of murdering Rancho Santa Margarita software engineer John Chamberlain, who they suspected of being a child molester, has ended with no verdict. By declaring themselves hopelessly divided as to the guilt or innocence of all five defendants, the case of the most brutal and controversial jailhouse murder in Orange County history has reached a surprising and decisively ambiguous conclusion.

Chamberlain, who was facing trial for misdemeanor possession of child pornography, died on Oct. 5, 2006, after dozens of inmates stomped, kicked, and punched him to death. The defense in the murder has maintained that a guard named Kevin Taylor alerted them to Chamberlain's pending charges and made it clear nobody would be punished for assaulting him.

According to a source close to the trial, the jury sent a letter this morning to Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler indicating that it cannot reach a verdict on any of the five defendants, Garret Aguilar, Stephen Carlstrom, Miguel Guillen, Jared Petrovich, and Raul Villafana. Stotler has ordered all prosecutors and defense attorneys to be in the courtroom at 1:30 pm today, at which point it is likely he will declare a mistrial and discharge the jury.

Stay tuned for more coverage here on Navel Gazing.

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