WILMINGTON, Del. - The jury in the murder trial of Wharton undergraduate Irina Malinovskaya has still not reached a verdict, and attorneys familiar with the trial say the length of deliberations is unprecedented in Delaware murder cases.
Today, the jury enters its tenth day of trying to determine the guilt or innocence of Malinovskaya, who is accused of bludgeoning Temple University graduate student Irina Zlotnikov to death in Dec. 2004.
The case has already seen two hung juries, but neither of the previous juries spent more than six days behind closed doors before a mistrial was declared.
Former New Castle County, Del., prosecutor Peter Letang said yesterday the trial has entered "uncharted territory."
"I am not familiar with a case in recent or extended history that the jury has been out this long," said Letang, who has 30 years of experience trying cases in Delaware.
It would be common to assume that the unusual length of the deliberations indicates a third hung jury, but Joseph Gabay, a Delaware criminal lawyer unaffiliated with the case, said the jury has done nothing to suggest it is unable to reach a verdict.
"The unusual part of this is that they haven't sent out any notes," Gabay said, referring to short written documents that juries often use to communicate problems and ask legal questions to the judge.
During the second trial, the jury gave Judge John Babiarz a note indicating it was at a stalemate, and Babiarz issued an Allen charge, urging the group to try again to reach a verdict. Two days later, the jury announced it was still split, 6-6, and Babiarz declared a mistrial.
Gabay argued the absence of communication from the jury actually suggests they are working toward a verdict.
"The length of deliberations [in this case] does not equate with a mistrial but with a jury that is thoroughly reviewing the evidence," he said.
But because court has not reconvened to check the progress of deliberations and the jury has not communicated anything publicly, the state of the deliberations remains unknown.
"With it going this long, it's impossible to know what is going on," Gabay said.
If the trial does result in another hung jury, the length of the deliberations will play a key role in the prosecution's decision to go to a fourth trial.
"It is unlikely that the state will try it again because of the time the jury has spent deliberating," Letang said. "My experience would dictate that the jury would have to be given a lot of credit" for considering the evidence so thoroughly.
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