Mistrial in Beanie Sigel case

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)

With jurors hopelessly deadlocked after five days of deliberations, a judge yesterday declared a mistrial in the attempted-murder prosecution of rapper Beanie Sigel.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Robinson said prosecutors would retry the case, which attracted considerable hip-hop star power last week when Jay-Z and Beyonc appeared at the Criminal Justice Center.Sigel, wearing a black suit and white tie with black polka dots, was engulfed by television cameras, reporters, hulking bodyguards, and his large entourage as he left the courthouse yesterday evening.

“At this point, I'm going to go home and get some sleep,” said Sigel, whose real name is Dwight Grant. “I want to thank everybody who stuck by me, who supported me, who believed in me.”

Defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. told reporters: “He walked in innocent and he walked out an innocent man.”

Perri said it was “very difficult to convict” his client, “based on the quality” of the testimony prosecutors presented from the victim and a witness.

Sigel, 30, is accused of shooting 27-year-old Terrance Speller in July near a West Philadelphia bar. Speller and the witness at first told investigators that they didn't know the gunman, but they subsequently fingered Sigel.

Robinson told the jury that initially the men feared for themselves and their families.

Jurors, who began their deliberations Wednesday, told Common Pleas Court Judge Karen Shreeves-Johns on Thursday that they were deadlocked on all the charges, which include aggravated assault, conspiracy and weapons offenses. But Shreeves-Johns ordered them to continue their deliberations.

After lunch yesterday, the jury foreman sent the judge another note.

“After deep and sincere deliberation of all that has come before us, we the jury cannot come to a unanimous verdict on any of the charges,” the foreman wrote.

In open court, Shreeves-Johns asked the foreman whether, in his judgment, there was a reasonable probability that the jury could reach a verdict.

“No” was his emphatic answer.

But Shreeves-Johns again ordered jurors to return to the jury room and attempt to reach a verdict, and as they left the courtroom, Juror No. 7 shook her head in apparent exasperation.

Stone-faced, the jury of seven women and five men returned to the courtroom about 90 minutes later to request crime-scene photos; the initial statement the eyewitness, 21-year-old David Aimes, gave to investigators; and Aimes' trial testimony regarding where he stood when shots first rang out.

At the end of the day, Shreeves-Johns called jurors back to the courtroom and inquired whether further time to deliberate would assist them.

Jurors exchanged glances, and several of them said, “No!”

The judge dismissed the jury, and Sigel and Perri shook hands. Shreeves-Johns, who will preside over the retrial, scheduled a status hearing for May 26, at which point a new trial date may be set.

Sigel remains free on $150,000 bail.

When asked whether she was afraid her witnesses might balk at going through a second trial, Robinson, the assistant district attorney, said she would do what was necessary to ensure their health and safety.

“It was difficult to get to this point,” she said. “Do I fear I'll lose them? No.”

Sigel still faces a July 8 sentencing in federal court on gun- and prescription drug-possession charges. He pleaded guilty April 8, and according to the plea agreement faces a maximum of 11 years in prison on those counts, though the federal sentencing guidelines call for a third of that maximum.

Contact staff writer Jacqueline Soteropoulos at 215-854-4497 or jsoteropoulos@phillynews.com.

This content is no longer available at Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)