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Westerfield Jurors Unable to Decide on Penalty

Aired September 16, 2002 - 14:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: David Westerfield's trial is back on track. Jurors are back deliberating a sentence after a five-day hiatus. Westerfield was convicted of killing his 7-year-old neighbor, Danielle van Dam.
CNN's Thelma Gutierrez is live at the courthouse with more -- Thelma.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, this jury has been deliberating on and off since September 4. Now, the six-man, six-women panel is back to business today, as you had mentioned, after nearly a week. Deliberations were canceled for more than four days last week because one juror was sick and also because another had a medical appointment.

But today they have a first opportunity to go over all of the evidence they've requested since the break, which includes all of the evidence that was presented during the penalty phase, and also a readback of transcripts from two of the witnesses during the guilt phase of the trial. Now, jurors must recommend a penalty to the judge, either death by lethal injection or life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50-year-old David Westerfield.

He was convicted last month by the same jury of kidnapping and murdering 7-year-old Danielle van Dam, who lived just two doors away. Her body was found by the side of the rural road nearly a month after her disappearance. It was so badly decomposed that experts could not determine exactly how she died or whether she had been sexually assaulted. Now the prosecution said that Westerfield, a father of two children of his own, deserves the most severe penalty, which is the death penalty. Whichever way it goes, though, Kyra, all 12 jurors must be unanimous in their decision.

Back to you.

PHILLIPS: Live from San Diego. Thank you, Thelma.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: As you know, for the past two weeks we have been talking about the fate of David Westerfield. Jurors had been back at deliberating today after a five-day hiatus. You'll remember Westerfield was convicted of the killing of his 7-year-old neighbor, Danielle van Dam. We just have word now that the jury sent an e-mail to the judge that it simply cannot reach a verdict.

We'll go back to our Thelma Gutierrez in San Diego. Thelma, what does this mean?

GUTIERREZ: Kyra, we seem to be having some audio problems out here. I cannot hear you, but I can tell you that Judge William Mudd received a note from juror number 10 a short time ago announcing that the panel has been unable to reach a unanimous decision in the penalty phase of this trial.

As you recall, jurors had to unanimously decide what the death penalty for 50-year-old David Westerfield would be, whether it would be death by lethal injection or whether it would be life in prison without the possibility of parole. Now, all of the jurors, the six men and six women, plus the alternates were all death qualified, which means that on their questionnaire, when they were selected, they had all indicated that they would be able to impose the death penalty if David Westerfield was convicted of kidnapping and murdering Danielle van Dam.

Apparently, though, they not able to reach a unanimous decision -- Kyra, back to you.

PHILLIPS: All right, Thelma Gutierrez, in San Diego. Thank you. We'll continue to follow up, of course, on how that develops in San Diego.

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