February 17, 2005

Blackwell jury struggles to reach a verdict

Baltimore Sun

By Julie Bykowicz
Sun Staff
Originally published February 17, 2005
After more than five hours of deliberation, jurors in the sexual child abuse case of a defrocked Baltimore priest sent the judge a note yesterday saying they could not agree on a decision - raising the possibility of a hung jury and mistrial.

The judge sent the jurors home for the evening, ordering them to return to the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse this morning to try again to reach a verdict in the trial of Maurice Blackwell. The former priest is charged with four counts of sexual child abuse, accused of molesting Dontee Stokes from 1989 to 1992 at St. Edward Catholic Church in West Baltimore.

Stokes, who sang in the youth choir and led the church youth group, shot Blackwell in May 2002. Now 29, Stokes was acquitted of attempted murder charges, and Blackwell, 58, was soon after indicted on the abuse charges.

The note from the 12 jurors came at 4:40 p.m. yesterday: "Jury unable to agree on any of the counts. What do we do? How do we proceed?"

After dismissing the jurors for the day, Baltimore Circuit Judge Stuart R. Berger told lawyers he would read them an instruction on their duty to deliberate when they return this morning.

Posted by kshaw at February 17, 2005 06:35 AM