Judge Declares Mistrial
Jul. 16, 1988
NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) _ A judge declared a mistrial Friday in the case of an airline pilot accused of murdering his wife and destroying her body with a chain saw and wood chipper.
After 17 days of deliberations, a juror refused to continue or even to reappear in the courtroom so the case could be recessed until Saturday, Superior Court Judge Barry Schaller said in announcing the mistrial Friday night.
State's Attorney Walter Flanagan said he would decide next week whether to seek another trial.
''Twelve people took an oath to do a job and 11 were willing to do so and one was not,'' Flanagan said.
The jury had declared itself deadlocked about 4:35 p.m. Friday. But Schaller ordered jurors to continue to try to reach a verdict in the trial of Richard Crafts, which started April 4.
Schaller said juror Warren Maskell Jr. of Preston told him: ''I am sorry, but after voting eight times in at least a week with the same results, I cannot continue to deliberate in a clear and open mind. I am truly sorry.''
A source who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Maskell was the lone juror who refused to vote for conviction.
Crafts, a 50-year-old pilot for Eastern Airlines and part-time police officer, was arrested in January 1987 and charged with the murder of his Danish-born wife, Helle. The arrest came after body parts were found by state police on the banks of the Housatonic River in Southbury.
Mrs. Crafts, a 39-year-old stewardess for Pan American World Airlines and mother of three young children, was last seen on Nov. 18, 1986 when co-workers dropped her off at the Crafts' Newtown home after an overseas flight.
Defense attorney J. Daniel Sagarin said his client was disappointed by the outcome, saying Crafts wanted a verdict so ''he could go back to his children.'' Sagarin said he would seek a reduction in Crafts' bond next week. Crafts has been held in lieu of $750,000 bail since his arrest.
Maskell, 47, suffered head injuries in a car accident on Friday, July 1. He was hospitalized briefly, but he told Schaller when court reconvened July 5 that he felt he was able to continue deliberations.
The judge said that while the 12-member jury was sending out for supper Friday night, Maskell left the jury room and refused to return.
The judge quoted Maskell as saying, ''I'm out of there and I'm not going back in there.''
The judge said an effort was made to ''let the situation cool off,'' but Maskell wouldn't budge, despite requests from several other jurors that he join them.
Schaller said he decided then to have the jurors return to the courtroom and recess until Saturday morning for one more attempt at deliberations, but Maskell refused, telling a bailiff that he wouldn't come unless he was ''carried in.''
At that point, the judge said, he asked the jury's foreman in a note if further deliberations would be useful, and the foreman responded in writing, ''Yes. Definitely.'' Maskell responded to the same question in another note, ''I do not believe so.''
Prosecutor Flanagan said he agreed with the defense that the court was left with no alternative but to declare a mistrial.
Earlier Friday, the jury sent the judge a note saying that there was a ''strong majority,'' but that it was at an impasse and desired further instructions. It didn't say whether the majority favored conviction or acquittal.
Schaller told the jury that those in the minority should closely examine the views of the majority in an effort to reach a unanimous verdict.
He said a dissenting juror should consider whether his or her doubt is a reasonable one when it makes no impression on the other jurors.
The defense objected to the instructions.
Prosecutors said they didn't know how Crafts killed his wife, but they presented evidence they said proved he used a chain saw and wood chipper to dispose of her body.
More than 100 witnesses and 650 exhibits were presented over 53 days of the trial, which was moved to New London from Danbury because of pretrial publicity over the case.