Special to SEGAZINE
Having announced a 9-3 deadlock Thursday on the murder charges against Guy Heinze Jr., the jury in his death penalty murder trial nonetheless will keep deliberating.
The foreman of the eight-woman, four-man jury told Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett shortly after lunch they had reached a verdict on two drug charges but could not agree on eight malice murder counts and one of aggravated assault.
“Is it your opinion you are hopelessly deadlocked,” or could further deliberations be fruitful, Scarlett asked the foreman.
When the foreman hesitated to answer, Scarlett told the jury to discuss the matter and advise him.
They went back to the jury room, but instead of returning to tell Scarlett whether they felt a verdict on all charges was possible, they came back at 2:30 p.m. to watch a videotaped walk-through of the crime scene. The videotape showed the bloody interior of the mobile home where, Heinze had told police, he came home early Saturday morning on Aug. 29, 2009, and found his whole family beaten to death. There was, however, one survivor, Byron Jimerson, who was 3 at the time.
No more was heard until about 6:15 p.m., when the jury came back to the courtroom. When Scarlett asked about whether they had made progress, the foreman said he didn’t know because they hadn’t taken a vote recently.
“We’ve got a couple of options,’’ Scarlett said. “We’ve had a long day.”
The choices were to take a break for the night and resume deliberations Friday morning, continue deliberating Thursday night or decide whether a verdict was even possible, he said.
“Take a break. Have dinner. Maybe reach a consensus where you are,’’ Scarlett said.
An hour later, the jury asked to recess for the night. That is what the judge ordered.
If they still cannot reach a verdict Friday, Scarlett could declare a mistrial on the nine more serious charges. The state would accept the verdict on the drug charges.
It was evident that the defense team believes the jury has found Heinze guilty on the drug charges. After talking with one of the defense lawyers, Heinze’s younger brother left the courthouse in tears.
The violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act, a felony, and misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana arose from police finding a mild narcotic painkiller and a small amount of marijuana in the car Heinze was driving.
If he has been found guilty on both, Heinze faces a maximum five years on the felony and up to one year on the misdemeanor.
The sequestered jury has deliberated at least 15 hours over two days.
If there is a mistrial, Heinze will remain in custody as he has been since Aug. 29, 2009. That’s when he reported he had come home from being out all night and found his father and seven others dead in a single-wide mobile home north of Brunswick where 10 people lived.
He is charged with eight counts of malice murder in the deaths of his father, Guy Heinze Sr., 45; Russell D. Toler Sr., 44; Toler’s children, Russell D. Toler Jr., 20, Chrissy Toler, 22, Michael Toler, 19, and Michelle Toler, 15; Chrissy Toler’s boyfriend, Joseph West, 30; and the senior Toler’s sister, Brenda Gail Falagan, 49.
He is charged with aggravated assault with intent to murder in the beating of Byron, who is now 7 and lives with his paternal grandmother.