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Verdict or no verdict? Confusion reigns at pie-thrower trial as deliberations continue

Jurors tossed pie-throwing activist Sean Thompson’s trial into confusion Friday, announcing they had reached a verdict on the felony assault charge in September’s public pieing of then-Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson only to tell a judge that a decision remained out of reach.

Deliberations will continue for a fourth day on Monday.

Problems with the would-be verdict arose Friday afternoon in Sacramento Superior Court after the jury forewoman announced her panel had reached a “partial verdict” on the assault charge but remained deadlocked on the second battery charge.

Jurors have the option of weighing a lesser included misdemeanor charge of simple assault in the felony case against Thompson.

One exchange between the forewoman and Sacramento Superior Court Judge Curtis Fiorini highlighted the jurors’ confusion. As Fiorini asked if the panel had reached a unanimous verdict on the felony assault charge, a male juror in the front row of the box nodded his head emphatically in the affirmative.

The forewoman’s response was less confident. “No,” she said.

After more prodding from Fiorini, the forewoman said jurors had not reached a “complete” verdict on the felony, adding that jurors may need more time to reach a decision.

Jurors briefly reconvened before departing for the weekend. Afterward, Thompson defense attorney Claire White tried to make sense of the mix-up, saying jurors were likely “hung up” on the lesser included offense while placing blame on prosecutors and a no-show Johnson, who managed to avoid defense subpoenas and did not testify.

“If Johnson had taken the stand, this could have been resolved pretty simply,” White told reporters. “This was a case that was overcharged. We’ll see what the jury comes up with. They have a duty to continue.”

Sacramento County prosecutor Anthony Ortiz had billed the case as a simple, straightforward assault from the outset. But jurors returned Thursday deadlocked on the charges in the Sept. 21 incident at Sacramento Charter High School in Oak Park and armed with questions on the definitions of simple assault in the case and the scope of Johnson’s mayoral duties.

On Friday, Ortiz sought to reargue the assault charge before the jury. Fiorini rejected the request.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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