Thursday, April 12, 2012
A deadlocked jury caused a judge to declare a mistrial today in the case of a transient accused of shooting at cars on a San Diego freeway during the morning commute, wounding a 21-year-old college student and damaging the car of another motorist.
A jury foreman told Judge Charles Gill that the panel was deadlocked 8-4 for guilt on attempted murder charges against 59-year-old Stephen Dragasits.
Jurors also deadlocked 7-5 for guilt on two charges of shooting at an occupied vehicle and 10-2 for guilt on two charges of assault with a firearm.
The jury sent a note that it was deadlocked Wednesday, during its third day of deliberations.
In her closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Chandelle Konstanzer said the defendant deliberately fired from his motor home, which was parked alongside southbound state Route 163, wounding University of San Diego student Ashley Simmons and hitting the car of Jeffrey Lloyd-Jones.
"He was aiming at these individuals," Konstanzer said. "He was aiming. He intended on killing them."
But defense attorney Euketa Oliver told the jury in her closing argument that no one saw her client shoot at anyone.
Video footage shot by a motorist driving in the area the morning of the shootings shows a motor home parked by the freeway, but it is a different motor home than the defendant's, Oliver said.
Konstanzer said Dragasits lived in his RV and liked to hang out in the vicinity of Kearny Mesa Road along the freeway near the Clairemont Mesa exit. About a month before the shootings, Dragasits was convicted of throwing large rocks at cars in the same area, she said.
The CHP found .22-caliber casings in the area after the shootings, and some had the defendant's DNA on them, Konstanzer said.
But Oliver said there were questions regarding the collection of evidence and whether acceptable standards were followed in testing for DNA on the shell casings.