A Sacramento judge will hear from attorneys Friday morning on how to answer questions posed by deadlocked jurors in local activist Sean Thompson’s pie-throwing trial.
“There are four distinct questions put forward by the jury, and, on all four at this point, there’s a disagreement between the district attorney and the defense on how they should be answered,” Claire White, Thompson’s attorney, said Thursday, addressing reporters at Sacramento County Courthouse after jurors were sent home for the day.
Jurors were ordered to resume deliberations Thursday afternoon in the case after telling Sacramento Superior Court Judge Curtis Fiorini they were deadlocked 7-5 and 9-3 on the felony assault and misdemeanor battery charges the local activist faced in the Sept. 21 incident that targeted then-Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson at a benefit at Sacramento Charter High School in Oak Park. Fiorini sat in Thursday for trial judge Sacramento Superior Court Judge Robert Twiss.
The panel ended their deliberations for the day just before 3 p.m. At issue, four questions related to prosecutors’ definition of the simple assault allegation against Thompson and a clearer delineation of the mayor’s official duties.
Prosecuting Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz throughout the trial called the case against Thompson “simple and straightforward,” telling jurors in his closing argument Tuesday that “the slightest touch” of someone could equal an assault charge, if that contact was deemed harmful or offensive. White countered the claim in her summation with examples ranging from a celebratory post-game pieing of a baseball player to the slice of cake smeared in her face by her husband at their wedding reception.
With their new questions during deliberations, jurors appear to see the case less clearly.
White, speaking with reporters, called the panel’s questions a “rejection” of prosecutor Ortiz’s argument.
Jurors, she said are “wrestling with some fundamental concepts, like what ‘offensive’ means, what ‘harmful’ means, what, in fact, the mayor’s duties are. The way the district attorney portrayed this as a ‘simple case,’ the jury’s questions reflect a rejection of that narrative. They are doing their due diligence to give Mr. Thompson and the evidence presented a real fair shake before a decision gets made.”
The panel’s forewoman earlier in the afternoon said jurors took three votes on one of the charges and two votes on the other during their three days of deliberation, casting their latest vote about 11 a.m. Thursday without reaching a unanimous decision.