There was no verdict Thursday and jurors in the capital murder trial of David Stoddard still appear to have questions about the most serious charges in his Summit County indictment.
There also was a question about whether the chalk board in the jury room should be erased at the end of each day’s talks — an apparent concern that the courthouse cleaning crew might see the points of discussion.
A veteran attorney present when the judge provided the answers said that question could mean jurors “are in for the long haul.”
Common Pleas Judge Thomas Teodosio told the panel his bailiff would take care of erasing it and otherwise keeping the jury room secure.
Deliberations began at 3:20 p.m. Wednesday after Teodosio read the lengthy legal instructions.
The 12-member panel, 10 of whom are women, is sequestered at an area hotel. Jurors were escorted there at about 8 p.m. Wednesday after failing to reach a verdict, and again Thursday night following their first full day of talks.
Stoddard, 25, of Barberton, is charged in the first and second counts of his seven-count indictment with the aggravated murder of a pregnant 16-year-old, Anna Karam of Akron, during a shooting spree that began at about 4 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2013.
The essential elements in Count One, which the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, allege that Stoddard purposely killed Karam during the course of an aggravated burglary.
In Count Two, under an alternate theory of the slaying, there must be proof that he purposely caused her death as part of a plan.
Jurors said there was some confusion over those two charges, wanting to know, hypothetically, if they could vote guilty on Count One, then vote not guilty on Count Two.
Teodosio told the panel, first, to view the written jury instructions on multiple counts.
Then he said that if all essential elements of a charge are proven, the verdict must be guilty. If even one essential element isn’t proven, he said, the verdict must be not guilty.
The judge concluded by saying the charges are “separate and distinct,” and each one must be considered separately.
If Stoddard is convicted of either of the aggravated murder counts, he could be sentenced to death.
In Count Three, he is charged with the attempted murder of 20-year-old Jessica Halman of Barberton. Both sides agree that he had two guns on the night of the slaying, pulled a .32-caliber handgun out of his pocket, held it inches from Halman’s left temple and pulled the trigger.
Halman survived. She testified as the state’s first witness, describing how she went into shock moments after being shot and fell to the floor inside a tightly cramped home on East Archwood Avenue in Akron.
The bullet, Halman said, entered near her left ear and lodged in the back of the skull in the spinal area. Surgeons could not remove it without risking catastrophic damage, she said.
When she walked into the courtroom, she showed no apparent difficulty. She spoke clearly and, at times, emotionally about what happened that night. Stoddard lost his temper after learning his girlfriend wasn’t there, Halman said, and began firing.
Police found four shell casings inside.
Lead defense lawyer Brian Pierce told the jury in closing arguments that Stoddard should be held responsible for the shooting spree and should, in fact, be convicted of the attempted murder of Halman.
However, Pierce also argued that Stoddard did not purposely kill Karam. He had not planned to do it, had helped her during her pregnancy and thought of her as his “cousin,” Pierce said.
The East Archwood occupants also knew Stoddard well. He had stayed there on many weekends, and that fact was important, Pierce argued, because it showed he did not enter the home “by force, stealth or deception.”
Without proof of an aggravated burglary, or proof of any one of the other essential elements in the aggravated murder counts, the defense argued that not guilty verdicts must be returned on all of the death penalty specifications.
A man who identified himself as Karam’s father, however, talked briefly during the lunch break about Stoddard’s actions.
“He went in with two guns,” the man said, “so I can’t see the jury giving him any leniency because you know he went in there to kill someone.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330 996-3784 or email@example.com.