After four days of deliberations, jurors in the murder trial of former DeKalb County police officer Robert “Chip” Olsen have yet to render a verdict. And they may not arrive at one before the end of the week.
“Is Monday a holiday?” asked one of the jurors.
Monday, Columbus Day, is not a state holiday, at least not in Georgia. Whether the Olsen jury will still be deliberating then could depend on Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson’s decision to grant the state’s request to issue an Allen charge, an instruction meant to discourage deadlocks. She said she’ll rule on that Friday morning.
“It’s the most coercive instruction there is to try to get the jury to render verdicts on every count,” said Atlanta lawyer Esther Panitch, who has been following the trial.
But that doesn’t mean the jury will eventually reach an agreement on all charges.
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“It sounds like they’re being very methodical,” said lead defense attorney Don Samuel, responding to the jury’s request to end deliberations a little early. He said the defense team will offer their take on the Allen charge Friday morning.
Typically the defense opposes the imposition of an Allen charge.
“If there’s a holdout, they don’t want to force the holdout to give in because they’d rather have a mistrial than a conviction,” Panitch said.
Presumably the 7-woman, 5-man panel is hung up on at least one of the two felony murder counts. If convicted on just one of those charges, Olsen, 57, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Olsen is charged in the March 2015 shooting of Anthony Hill, a mentally ill Afghanistan war veteran who had stripped naked after skipping his meds. Hill, 26, was shot as he approached Olsen, ignoring commands to stop. Hill was unarmed.
» PHOTOS: Olsen Murder Trial Week Two
» PHOTOS: Olsen Murder Trial Week One
Earlier Thursday, the jury asked Dear Jackson if their decisions on some of the six counts against Olsen would be invalidated if they couldn’t come to a conclusion on others.
The judge informed them that verdicts are not required on every count. That would result in a partial mistrial.
Is such an outcome inevitable for the Olsen trial?
Possibly, but it’s still too early to tell. The jury in the trial of Claud “Tex” McIver — the prominent Atlanta attorney charged with intentionally shooting his wife, Diane, as they rode in their SUV near Piedmont Park in September 2016 — took 27 hours to reach a verdict.
Conventional wisdom states that defendants generally benefit from extended deliberations. But that wasn’t the case with McIver, who was found guilty of felony murder.
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