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Lone juror's vote forces mistrial for Raven Abaroa

Posted May 31, 2013

— A Superior Court judge in Durham declared a mistrial Friday after a jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the first-degree murder trial of Raven Abaroa.

Abaroa, 33, is accused of fatally stabbing his 25-year-old wife, Janet Abaroa, three times in their Durham home on April 26, 2005.

Abaroa Family Images: Janet Abaroa murder case

Jurors deliberated for more than 10 hours since closing arguments Wednesday and told Judge Orlando Hudson twice Friday that they were deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt and "that no amount of deliberation will alter our decision."

Abaroa remained in the Durham County jail without bond Friday afternoon, and Durham County District Attorney Charlene Coggins-Franks said the state intends to retry the case. A new date could be set Thursday.

Abaroa has maintained his innocence, saying he was playing in a soccer game and returned home to find his wife crouched on the floor. He was arrested nearly five years later in Idaho, where he lived with the couple's son, who was 6 months old when his mother was killed.

Testimony in the five-week trial spanned 19 days and consisted of 82 witnesses and 565 pieces of evidence.

Jurors appeared visibly tired and upset as did Janet Abaroa's family members who said prior to Hudson's ruling that they were terrified at the thought of a hung jury.

Many in the courtroom, including the defendant, were in tears as the judge ruled.

Raven Abaroa Janet Abaroa's family disappointed in hung jury

Family members of both Raven and Janet Abaroa declined to comment as did prosecutors. Defense attorney Amos Tyndall said he was glad his client was not convicted.

The defense argued during the trial that police focused only on their client as a suspect and ignored or explained away any evidence that could have helped identify another culprit in the case

In closing statements on Wednesday, Tyndall also said that the discovery two weeks ago of emails on a hard drive from Janet Abaroa's work computer was symbolic of the state's "willingness to capitalize on information we don't have."

Web-only: Abara jury says its deadlocked Web-only: Judge declares mistrial

"It allowed the state, frankly, to present a dishonest picture of who Janet Abaroa was, who Raven Abaroa is and what their relationship was like," he told jurors.

The emails, Tyndall argued, showed Janet Abaroa as a strong-willed woman who trusted her husband and could do what she wanted – an image that starkly differed from the prosecution's portrayal of a broken and submissive wife who feared her controlling, verbally abusive and unfaithful husband.

Prosecutors argued Janet Abaroa's death wasn't random and that Raven Abaroa was the only person with any reason to kill her.

An admitted affair and other sexual encounters were evidence that he didn't want to be married, they said. A negative bank account balance in April 2005, combined with pending embezzlement charges and a lifestyle beyond his means, pointed to a financial motive.

Janet Abaroa had a $500,000 life insurance policy, prosecutor Luke Bumm told jurors, so her death "was worth a great deal of money" to her husband and could solve his financial problems.

Although there was no physical evidence connecting Raven Abaroa to his wife's murder, Coggins-Franks told jurors there were too many circumstances that kept leading investigators back to him.

"If you take just one by itself, it doesn't indicate guilt," she said. "But if you take one after the next after the next after the next – by the time you're through counting, there's so much there that the state has proved well beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant murdered his wife, Janet Abaroa, on April 26, 2005."

51 Comments

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  • renaissancemon Jun 4, 10:29 a.m.

    "What evidence direct or circumstantial was there that would lead one to believe Raven is the killer beyond a reasonable doubt?"

    The state's case seemed to be, 1, it wasn't a burglary or otherwise random killing, and 2, Raven was a meanie with apparent financial gain at stake, and the NON-random person with the opportunity.

    As a juror I would have been completely dissatisfied that no soccer game witness for either side testified about Raven's location and timing. NOT proven guilty. Merely proven SUSPECT.

  • renaissancemon Jun 4, 10:24 a.m.

    "Kudos to the one juror for sticking to his or her vote."

    Kudos to all twelve equally, each for calling it has his own conscience saw it, and for realizing when they had reached a point where none of them would change their minds anymore. (Two of them did change their minds prior to that.)

    There are known cases of a 11-1 hang in the making, being resolved by the 1 convincing the other 11 to switch!

  • beachboater Jun 3, 6:17 p.m.

    I would hate to sit on a jury with only circumstantial evidence. A man's life could depend on your interpretation. It's basically, who has the best lawyer.

  • kweb1013 Jun 3, 1:54 p.m.

    OK, let's just spend more tax payer money to retry him and have another hung jury. Time to give it up.

  • sflicker2 Jun 3, 1:20 p.m.

    What evidence direct or circumstantial was there that would lead one to believe Raven is the killer beyond a reasonable doubt?

  • fishon Jun 3, 1:14 p.m.

    In a democracy where the majority rules, it is amazing that 1 person can determine the entire verdict.
    jscott13

    The USA is not a democracy it is a republic. That is why the presidential election can be won by the person with fewer votes but more electoral votes.

    None of which has anything to do with a murder trial which needs all 12 jurors to agree. Yes?

  • jackflash123 Jun 3, 12:06 p.m.

    “really, Bart? So 11 jurors had it wrong and one had it right? How silly......how very silly.”

    "Methinks Bart lives in a CSI world..."

    I think you misinterpreted what Bart said. He didn't say 11 jurors were wrong or that things should be resolved as easily as a TV show. In fact, he was responding to that idea w/ quite the opposite position. He responded to someone whose CSI mentality was that the 12th juror was wrong w/ an alternate possibility. He wasn't endorsing that himself.

  • jackflash123 Jun 3, 12:02 p.m.

    That's a good point, renaissancemon. Several, actually.

    The conclusiveness of a verdict, whether guilty or not guilty, is definitely more satisfying to the neutral observer than a hung jury. And among hung juries, even splits are probably easier to swallow than one where it feels "so close." Still, that's how it works. Kudos to the one juror for sticking to his or her vote.

  • renaissancemon Jun 3, 10:50 a.m.

    I resent the headline. It indicates bias in favor of a guilty verdict. The eleven jurors who didn't vote NOT Guilty, are JUST AS RESPONSIBLE for the LACK OF UNANIMITY, as the one who didn't vote Guilty. Lack of unanimity is an aggregate or collective property, not something that rests on any lone individual. Each juror is an independent conscience. It is just as valid to say those eleven forced a "mistrial."

    I wish hung juries would not even tell people what the count was or which way it was leaning. Be a team that couldn't agree but keeps the details of its disagreement to itself.

    I also wish jurors would insist on voting by ballot so no one would know for sure who are the ones disagreeing with whom.

    Finally let's STOP CALLING HUNG JURIES "MISTRIALS." A mistrial is when something WRONG happens. Hung juries are OKAY. They send a LEGITIMATE MESSAGE.

  • canucmypointofview Jun 3, 9:25 a.m.

    Called that one!

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