The jury in the manslaughter trial of 25-year-old Gabrielle Nestande went home around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. After 14 hours of deliberation the 12 jurors still hadn't reached a unanimous verdict.
Nestande faces charges of intoxication manslaughter, manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid for striking and killing 30-year-old Courtney Griffin with her black BMW on Exposition Boulevard in the early morning hours of May 27, 2011.
The jurors sent Judge Sage a note just before 4 p.m. Wednesday--right at the 10-hour mark--that said they were having trouble reaching a decision on at least one of the counts.
Judge Sage then issued a court mandate, called the "Allan Charge," which requires the jury to perform their civic duty to keep deliberating until a unanimous verdict is reached or the case will be declared a mistrial.
The jury does have an option to chose criminally negligent homicide over the manslaughter charges. The difference between those two involves the use of recklessness, as listed in the manslaughter charge. Criminally negligent homicide means that Nestande did not know the risks of getting behind the wheel.
The judge urged members to keep working toward a resolution without caving into any thoughts or pressures of fellow members.
“Jurors should examine with candor the evidence presented to them. You are not advocates for one side or the other,” Sage said. “Do not surrender your honest beliefs solely because of the opinion of your fellow jurors.”
Four-and-a-half hours after Sage's order to keep deliberating, the jury asked to go home without a verdict.
Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel told friends and family of Courtney Griffin, who had been waiting outside the courtroom for nearly 12 hours, that she was confident jurors could still reach a verdict in the case.
"It is a sign that they are continuing to work, and that is what we want," Wetzel said. "It can only help them to go get some rest."
Closing arguments wrapped up late Tuesday. Jurors began deliberating immediately after, around 7 p.m., and continued for three hours. They asked the court for surveillance footage of Nestande socializing at Clive Bar on Rainey Street the night before the accident, as well as a recording and transcript of a call the California native made from jail to her mother and sister.
A large number of Griffin's family members and friends have been camped out since 9:00 a.m. Wednesday awaiting a verdict, along with news crews, outside Judge Sage’s courtroom.
The victim’s father, Bart Griffin, says waiting is the hardest part, but necessary for justice.
“It sounds like the jury is really taking their time and looking at all the evidence, and that is what they are supposed to do,” Griffin said."It's harder on ourselves sitting here than anything, but we are okay with the wait.”
Nestande faces two to 20 years on each manslaughter charge and two to 10 years for failure to stop and render aid.
The jury will resume deliberation Thursday at 9 a.m.