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The length of a trial has no strict correlation to the hours a jury needs to deliberate. But it came as something of a surprise that after less than two hours behind closed doors, the jury found itself at an impasse in the case against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia leader Simon Trinidad, charged with aiding the kidnapping of three American defense contractors whose plane crashed in the Colombian mountains in February 2003. “After careful, detailed consideration, we have been unable to come to a unanimous verdict on any count,” the foreman wrote in a note dated 11:15 a.m., Friday, Nov. 17. “We believe our differences to be sincere, based on deep thought, and irresolvable.” The only indication of their disagreement came from two other jury questions. If they found that Trinidad had conspired to commit hostage taking, did they have to find him guilty of actually aiding the conspiracy? And if they found him guilty of any of those counts, would they be finding him guilty of killing an American or a Colombian? Such differences, however, were not enough to convince Chief Judge Thomas Hogan, who sent the 12 men and women back to the jury room to continue pondering the testimony from some 20 witnesses, including Trinidad himself. By Monday the jurors were still head to head. “We continue to work diligently but remain hopelessly deadlocked,” the foreman wrote at 2:50 p.m. Hogan directed them to deliberate one last time, growing worried that six weeks of testimony, much of it translated from Spanish, would go to waste. At 10:10 a.m. the next day, the jurors could see “no prospect” of any resolution and soon shuffled back into the fourth-floor courtroom. Though Hogan wished he could do something to help the jury, he said, he had little choice but to call a mistrial. Yet the criminal case against Trinidad is not over. Prosecutor Kenneth Kohl called for a speedy retrial. And Trinidad still has another set of drug-trafficking charges scheduled for trial next year. On Tuesday, though, he had reason enough to flash reporters a quiet grin.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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