The Fresno jury returned a guilty verdict Wednesday against one of Bobby Lee Pearson's co-defendants in the burglary of an apartment, but couldn't reach a unanimous decision in Pearson's case. They were hung, with only 8 jurors voting guilty.
When Superior Court Judge W. Kent Hamlin asked the jury whether the verdicts they'd handed in were correct, all 12 nodded. But they'd given the judge the not-guilty form in Pearson's case, which the judge put on the record.
Jurors tried to correct the mistake by telling the judge they were hung on the charges, hoping it would lead to a retrial, but the judge said he had no choice, the Fresno Bee reported—to retry him after entering the verdict would be double jeopardy.
"This has never happened to me in more than 100 jury trials that I have done," the judge said.
So Pearson went free.
Police say he went to a home to pick up some clothes and other belongings early Thursday morning. There he apparently encountered his sister's boyfriend, with whom he had a bad history. In their ensuing fight, the unnamed boyfriend allegedly stabbed Pearson, killing him.
Jurors said they had been confused by the separate verdict forms—for guilty and not guilty—and the fact that there was no form for "hung jury."
"I call it a June jury," defense attorney Linden Lindahl told the Bee, referring to the fact that many of the jurors appeared to be young college students who put off their jury service until the summer. "I guess they see things differently than our normal jurors."
Lindahl added that he was surprised at the confusion, because Judge Hamlin's jury instructions had been "by the book."