UPDATED, Oct. 26 11:42 P.M.: You could see it in the faces of the five handcuffed men as they were led into Judge James Stotler's courtroom shortly after 5:30 p.m last night. Just over 24 hours earlier, they had watched with cautious optimism as the jury told Stotler they were hopelessly deadlocked about whether to convict them of first degree murder. Jared Petrovich, for one, had entered the courtroom with the faintest glimpse of a smile on his face.
But now, Petrovich and the rest of his fellow defendants, Garret Aguilar, Stephen Carlstrom, Miguel Guillen and Raul Villafana, all charged with the Oct. 5, 2006 jailhouse murder of John Chamberlain, a Rancho Santa Margarita software engineer awaiting trial on misdemeanor possession of child pornography, looked anything but happy as they awaited the clerk's reading of the verdict. Presumably, their lawyers had told them to expect the worst, which is exactly what happened: all five were found guilty of second degree murder.
As the clerk read out the verdict for Raul Villafana, the defendant's mother, a meek, middle-aged woman who'd quietly attended the trial for the past three months, began sobbing uncontrollably and Stotler ordered her to be removed from the courtroom. Ten of the 12 jurors rushed to the elevator, apparently uninterested in prolonging their public service by explaining their verdict to reporters. However two jurors lingered: Erik Johnson of Brea and Kim McPeck of Santa Ana.
Both men confirmed reports that the jury's 11-days-long deliberation had grown heated, with at least two members of the jury repeatedly arguing with each other. They also stated that certain aspects of the case troubled them, especially the fact that the evidence clearly showed the five defendants were hardly alone in carrying out Chamberlain's fatal beating.
But according to McPeck, a majority of jurors didn't believe Petrovich's claim that Deputy Kevin Taylor informed him that Chamberlain was a child molester and urged him to arrange the assault. "I don't think 12 jurors wanted to hang their hat on Mr. Petrovich's testimony," he said.
Asked if justice had been served by the jury's verdict, Johnson winced thoughtfully. "I'm going to spend a long time answering that question," he said.
McPeck, for his part, seemed surer the jury had done the right thing. "I believe so," he said, adding that he felt the five defendants should have been convicted of first degree murder. "I am saddened by how one event will impact their lives. That's what I tell all the kids I meet: don't let five minutes of stupidity ruin the rest of your lives."
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: Just minutes ago, an Orange County jury found the five people charged with the beating death of John Chamberlain at Theo Lacy Jail back in 2006 guilty of second-degree murder.
This came just a day after the jury told Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler they could not reach a verdict on any of the five charged on first-degree murder. Stotler wouldn't accept a hung jury, however, and ordered them to return to the jury room and try to convict them on second-degree murder charges--and it worked!
More details to come as they become available.