WILMINGTON, Del. - The murder trial of Irina Malinovskaya ended in a hung jury yesterday, the third mistrial for the Wharton undergraduate.
The jury was unable to reach a consensus regarding three of four charges levied against Malinovskaya, including counts of both first- and second-degree murder.
Jurors split 8-4 in favor of conviction for first-degree murder and 10-2 in favor of conviction for both the second-degree charge and a related possession of a deadly weapon charge.
Malinovskaya was convicted of attempted tampering with physical evidence relating to an e-mail she allegedly fabricated during her second trial last fall.
The felony tampering with evidence conviction carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, but Malinovskaya has already been held in custody without bail for almost three years, so she would likely not serve any additional jail time.
She was accused of bludgeoning to death Temple University graduate student Irina Zlotnikov, the girlfriend of her former lover, Robert Bondar.
The first two trials both ended in hung juries, the first 11-1 in favor of acquittal and the second in a 6-6 split.
Now, prosecutors must decide whether to try Malinovskaya for a fourth time or drop the remaining three charges.
Paul Wallace, the lead prosecutor, would not say whether the state will bring a fourth trial, explaining that it was necessary to review the case before making a decision.
But defense attorney Joe Hurley saw the deadlock as an indication of the unlikelihood of a jury ever finding her guilty.
"It's three times now," he said. "That's 36 jurors, seven different prosecutors and three different defense attorneys, and we still are in the same place. That speaks for itself."
If the state does decide to drop the charges, it is highly unlikely that Malinovskaya will return to Penn. Her student visa has long expired, and defense attorney Eugene Maurer said she will likely have a difficult time applying for a new visa because of her felony conviction in this trial.
Malinovskaya was just short of graduating when she was arrested in December 2004, and Hurley said she would like to return to Penn if possible.
Wharton spokesman Michael Baltes said in an e-mail that the University had not received information about the trial and would not comment on Malinovskaya's ability to return to Penn.
The jury deadlocked after 11 days of deliberations, which legal observers said was one of the longest deliberations in Delaware history.
After nine days without communication, the jury released a note on Wednesday asking about the differences between direct and indirect evidence. Judge James Vaughn answered their questions yesterday morning and the group returned to deliberations.
The court reconvened at about 1 p.m. when the jury told Judge Jerome Herlihy that they were deadlocked.
Herlihy asked the jury foreman if he believed any further deliberations would be "fruitful" and the foreman responded flatly: "No."
Vaughn, the presiding judge during the trial, returned from Dover, Del., to discuss the possibility of calling a mistrial.Wallace argued that Vaughn should issue an Allen Charge urging the jury to continue trying to reach a verdict, as was done in the second trial.
Maurer said doing so would be "unbelievably coercive" to the jurors in the minority, and it would be an "implicit suggestion that the court is not satisfied."
Vaughn agreed with the defense, discharged the jury and declared a mistrial.
Malinovskaya showed little emotion throughout the proceedings and was taken back into custody, where she will remain until her sentencing for the tampering-with-evidence charge.
A sentencing date has not been set.
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