David jurors can’t agree

Majority of panel was leaning toward acquittal

By SCOTT NORTH and JIM HALEY

Herald Writers

Victor David probably abused his wife, but Snohomish County prosecutors did not prove that he committed felony assault, jurors said Thursday.

A mistrial was declared in David’s case after jurors said they were unable to unanimously agree on a verdict.

Indeed, the final vote showed a majority were leaning toward acquittal.

There was no verdict because "we just couldn’t get there with what we had to work with," juror Kami Cramer said.

Even so, there is a high likelihood prosecutors will try David, 60, of Marysville, again on a second-degree assault charge, said Jim Townsend, the county’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor.

"What they (jurors) told us is they all felt there was some abuse going on," but many of the jurors felt there was insufficient evidence to prove David had assaulted his wife during the period covered by the charge, deputy prosecutor Kathy Patterson said.

"As disappointing as the verdict may be, it amply demonstrates what we’ve said all along: This is a difficult case," Townsend said.

It was hard to gauge David’s reaction to the hung jury. He was muttering when he was brought into court and shouted repeatedly that he wanted to talk to a Public Broadcasting System news show as he was led back to his jail cell.

"I want to talk to Frontline TV. I want to talk to Frontline TV 9," David said.

David’s attorney, Bryan Hershman of Tacoma, said he considered the outcome a victory, but he is uncertain whether he will represent his client for the second trial. To date, his fees have been paid by Victor David’s sister.

"I don’t like hung juries, but I felt like such an underdog," Hershman said. "I’ve never tried a case like this before."

He said prosecutors had offered David a plea agreement as the deliberations dragged on, but the defendant rejected that option.

"I’ve never had a client who is so adamant" he is innocent, Hershman said.

A second trial has been scheduled for Dec. 11, but it seems unlikely that it will occur on that date. Judge Thomas Wynne said extensive news coverage may make it difficult to find unbiased jurors in Snohomish County, and the court may have to look elsewhere. "We’ll cross that bridge later," he said.

Prosecutors had charged that the defendant spent years beating his wife, Linda David, 52, while hiding her away on a filthy sailboat they shared with up to seven German shepherd dogs, some cats, and at one point even a wild goose.

The state had paid Victor David to provide chore services and in-home care for his wife. Linda David was covered with scars, had brain damage and was nearly blind when a state social worker checked on her welfare in 1997, when the sailboat was docked at an Everett marina.

Jurors listened to three weeks of testimony. Linda David testified. So did doctors, who said her injuries most likely were the result of intentional trauma, not accident or illness, as the defense maintained.

But some jurors said prosecutors failed to show that Victor David was responsible for his wife’s injuries, especially during the period covered by the charge, from September 1993 to January 1997.

"There was not much evidence (of abuse) during that period," said juror Cramer, who was picked to lead the deliberations. "We went back and made a whole timeline to look at all our notes and try to put all the (witnesses) together. It was difficult."

Although the case tugged at the emotions, jurors took seriously their oath and the legal instructions they were given, Cramer said.

Jurors began deliberating Monday and by late Wednesday were divided 6-6. Their last vote Thursday was 7-5 to acquit.

Juror John Nichols was one of the five who voted for conviction. He said the evidence, including the trauma Linda David received, swayed him. However, he didn’t think her testimony was important because it was hard to understand.

Some jurors were moved by Linda David; others felt her testimony wasn’t important because it was confused. A few believe Linda David may have been manipulated, juror Nathan Broadbent said.

"The way (the prosecution) handled her in the nursing home," Broadbent said, "it seemed to indicate to some of the jurors that she was being coached; in fact, being spoon-fed things to make her remember things that really didn’t happen."

Some jurors said they were troubled that there were no witnesses to the assaults.

That couldn’t be helped, Townsend said.

"The only direct witness to the assaults is severely brain damaged," and that’s Linda David, he said.

A woman who regularly deals with domestic violence issues said she was surprised and saddened by the lack of a verdict.

"I think the case is a tragedy," said Rebecca Roby, regional director of the Pathways for Women YWCA.

She was not surprised that jurors had trouble with the evidence during the period covered by the statute of limitations. She sees women every day who don’t report abuse until after it’s too late for authorities to do anything about it.

"The emotional scars take a lot longer to heal than a bruise," Roby said.

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