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Hung Jury in Md. Immigrant Murders

August 30, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) _ The murder trial of two Mexican immigrants accused of nearly beheading three young relatives ended Tuesday with the jury unable to reach a verdict after 11 days of deliberations.

Adan Canela, 18, and Policarpio Espinoza, 23, were accused in the murders of 9-year-old Ricardo Espinoza Jr., his 8-year-old sister, Lucero Espinoza, and their 10-year-old cousin, Alexis Espejo Quezada. The children were found dead in their apartment in May 2004.

Canela and Espinoza were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy and would have faced life imprisonment if convicted.

Prosecutors said immediately that they would retry the case, which sickened police and residents of the crime-hardened city.

``These children and the community at large deserves justice and closure in this case,″ prosecutor Sharon Holback said.

Timothy Dixon, Espinoza’s attorney, said he had confidence in the jury throughout the trial.

``This is the kind of case that, when you take the emotions out of it, there just isn’t a lot of evidence there,″ Dixon said.

A court hearing was scheduled for Wednesday to set a new trial date. Canela and Espinoza were held in custody without bail.

Family and friends of the defendants declined to comment as they left the courthouse. The parents had expressed doubts whether Canela, a cousin of the victims, and Espinoza, an uncle, were the killers.

Authorities never put forward a clear motive for the crimes, and the defense suggested the children may have been killed after their parents failed to pay for being smuggled into the United States.

The family is from Tenenexpan, a small town in the Mexican state of Veracruz. The children were born in Mexico and came to the United States with their parents.

Juror Keith Brown said eight members of the jury thought Espinoza was guilty, with four holding out for his acquittal. Brown said the jury was deadlocked on Canela.

Brown said he believed more than two people were involved in the murders and that police stopped looking for more suspects after Espinoza and Canela were charged.

``It was very hard to believe that two people could actually commit this murder in the amount of time that it was done,″ Brown said.

Juror Mike Johnson said he wasn’t convinced police arrested the right people.

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