John Chamberlain's booking photo
John Chamberlain's booking photo

John Chamberlain Murder Trial: Runaway Juror Edition

Closing arguments in the trial of five former Theo Lacy Jail inmates accused in the Oct. 5, 2006 beating death of John Chamberlain, perhaps Orange County's most gruesome jailhouse murder, were delayed today because of a missing juror. What makes this news funny rather than mysterious: apparently the juror simply forgot to show up for court. You could hardly blame the poor guy, whatever his name is, given that the trial is approaching the end of its second month and just restarted after a nearly week-long break from courtroom action. But for reporters and other observers who can't wait to hear the jury's verdict and move on with their lives, it was a frustrating turn of events.

From 9 a.m. until shortly before 11 a.m, absolutely nothing happened in the case of the People and the State of California vs. Garrett Aguilar, Stephen Carlstrom, Miguel Guillen, Jared Petrovich and Raul Villafana. That's a slight exaggeration, actually. At about 10:30, a juror who had apparently received a telephone call from someone or someplace that was important enough to share with Judge James A. Stotler was called into the courtroom and then, along with Stotler, all seven attorneys and the courthouse reporter, disappeared into chambers for 15 minutes or so.

Then after hearing whatever she had to say Stotler told the juror not to tell anyone what the telephone call was about and instructed her to go back out in the hall. "You'll have to make a quick U-turn," Stotler, added, explaining that he was about to call the jury back in so prosecutor Ebrahim Baytieh could begin his closing argument. At that point, bailiffs went into the hallway and immediately realized there were only 11 jurors waiting outside. Although it probably went through everyone's mind that the juror had simply become bored with the hours-long delay and fallen asleep somewhere, it turned out the juror had forgotten all about the trial.

Assuming the juror actually does show up, the trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. tomorrow, and barring any other delays, the jury could begin deliberating as soon as Thursday morning. If convicted, the defendants, who allegedly beat Chamberlain to death because (as they claim) a guard told them he was a child molester, could each face 25 years to life in prison.


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