2 jurors in Danny Masterson rape trial dismissed due to COVID; deliberations to restart next week
A jury that was deliberating the death penalty in the rape and murder of 18-year-old Mary Kay Letourneau will soon return to begin deliberations on a lesser charge of indecent assault and battery.
The three-judge panel of Superior Court Trial Division in North Port has dismissed two of four jurors. Juror number four, Barbara Rizk, refused to deliberate further, and Juror number three, Susan E. Smith, did not show up to court on Monday, the day after the jury was asked to deliberate.
The prosecution and defense have 30 hours to consult with a judge to schedule the retrial of Letourneau’s case in the coming days. If the case is retried, jurors will have to wait until July 29 to deliberate; the new trial is scheduled to begin on July 31.
During the trial, the judge and lawyers questioned jurors about their reasons for returning guilty verdicts, the impact of the case and what it meant to vote for or against the death penalty.
Prosecutors said the death penalty was justified because the state was required to prove that Letourneau acted deliberately and in a particular way, and because the crime was aggravated and horrific.
Defense attorneys argued that the jurors should not sentence Letourneau to death, and they pointed out inconsistencies in the jurors’ decisions. The jury split 4-4 in ruling that Letourneau’s actions were not deliberate.
On the night of the rape, Letourneau, 20, invited her friend to a party at her apartment complex. But police say she then drove back to her boyfriend’s apartment and forced him to perform oral sex. She then went back inside her apartment to check on a friend who had left the party. Police reports said she then went back outside and raped the 17-year-old, who had been waiting outside and had called someone to come and get him.
The case also hinged on the testimony of the victim’s mother, who was the only one who saw the rape. She said after her daughter returned home and told her that the two teens had raped her, Letourneau was in a car with two friends. The victim went inside her house and returned.