Jury gives note, but still no verdict

The Daily Pennsylvanian

By Emily Babay

WILMINGTON, Del. – Jurors debating the fate of accused murderer and Wharton undergraduate Irina Malinovskaya communicated for the first time in 10 days yesterday, when they released a note seeking clarification on case evidence.

The note stated that the jury spent the first seven days of deliberations reviewing the evidence and has spent the bulk of this week discussing the case, which Delaware attorneys have called one of the longest jury deliberations for a murder case in state history.

The jury also asked for clarification on differences between direct and circumstantial evidence. Judge James Vaughn will address these questions this morning.

Two previous trials ended in mistrials as jurors were unable to decide if Malinovskaya was responsible for the December 2004 murder of Irina Zlotnikov, a Temple University graduate student who was dating Malinovskaya’s ex-boyfriend, Robert Bondar, at the time.

Lawyers familiar with the case have said the unusual lack of communication from the jury has made it impossible to speculate as to which way they are leaning.

Defense attorney Eugene Maurer said the jury’s note still provided “no tips one way or another” about where it stands.

The note was released at about 3:40 p.m. yesterday. Jurors were dismissed yesterday before the note was answered because it was late in the day and jurors were preparing to leave, prosecutor Victoria Witherell said.

She declined to comment further on the note.

Malinovskaya’s parents have waited in the New Castle County Courthouse throughout the deliberations. After reading the jurors’ note, Malinovskaya was permitted to briefly speak to her parents in Russian to tell them what was happening.

The jury in the third trial has already deliberated longer than either of the prior juries, with today marking two full weeks of deliberations. The first jury voted 11-1 in favor of acquittal after two days of deliberations, and the second jury deliberated for six days before ending in a 6-6 deadlock.

Jurors in the second trial also released a note, saying they were stuck and did not think they could reach a unanimous decision. The judge then issued an Allen charge, urging them to try again to reach a verdict, but ultimately declared a mistrial after jurors failed to reach an agreement following two further days of discussion.

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