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Danny Masterson is asking an L.A. judge to use her discretion and dismiss the charges against him after a jury couldn’t reach a verdict following a month-long trial.
Masterson was charged with the rape of three women from 2001 to 2003, to all of which he pled not guilty. The jury had been favoring acquittal on each of the charges — 10 to two, eight to four, and seven to five — when it informed the court it was at an impasse and would not be able to come to a unanimous decision. L.A. County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo on Nov. 30 declared a mistrial and tentatively set a new trial for March.
Masterson’s lawyer Philip Kent Cohen notes in a filing this week that a defendant can’t formally move for a dismissal, but his client does have the right to invite the court to exercise its discretion.
“If the evidence will not materially change and a retrial is likely to result in acquittal or another hung jury, the fact suggests that dismissal would be in the interest of justice,” Cohen writes.
He continues, “Immediately following the pronouncement of a hung jury, the deliberating jurors, as well as the alternate, spoke freely and candidly in the jury room with all trial counsel. The clear sentiment of the jurors, virtually to a person, was that there were significant evidentiary and credibility problems with the government’s case. And while there was disagreement as to the ultimate vote, on one thing the jurors all appeared to agree — no reasonable jury was ever going to come to a unanimous finding of guilt on any count.”
Cohen also points to an interview the jury foreperson gave following the trial, which the attorney says confirms “this was an unbiased and fair-minded jury that took its oath and responsibility extremely seriously.”
The attorney notes that the split verdict reflected the opinions of not only the 12 jurors who were present on the final day of deliberation, but also the two who had left after contracting COVID-19. The jury had indicated that it was “hopelessly deadlocked” before those jurors became ill and had to be replaced.
“Because there is absolutely no reason to conclude that this jury did anything other than its job, or that any future trial would be significantly different, this Court doesn’t just have the power to dismiss this case under [California Penal Code section 1385] as granted it by the Legislature, but it ‘should exercise’ such powers in the interests of justice,” writes Cohen.
From there, Masterson’s attorney breaks down “credibility problems” in the testimony from each of the three Jane Does, which he argues can’t be cured. In summary, Cohen argues, “This outcome was not a fluke.”
The next hearing is currently set for Jan. 10.
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