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Deadly Shootout Mistrial Declared

March 16, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A mistrial was declared Thursday when a federal court jury failed to break a deadlock on a civil claim that police allowed a robber to die after the 1997 North Hollywood bank robbery and shootout.

The jurors, who had returned to their deliberations after reporting Wednesday they could not reach agreement, said that the renewed talks produced no results.

``The jury has reviewed instructions again,″ they said in a note to the judge. ``We reopened deliberations. We have not come to our decision easily. We believe that each one of us has made his/her conscientious decision and will not change their honest beliefs. We cannot reach a unanimous decision.″

U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder declared a mistrial and lawyers on both side they would retry the case.

The case had been in the jury’s hands since Friday afternoon.

The civil rights lawsuit charged that retired policemen John Futrell, James Vojtecky and the city let Emil Matasareanu, 30, die through deliberate indifference.

The action, brought by Matasareanu’s children, sought unspecified damages.

The lawsuit cast a shadow over what had been heralded as a day of heroism as lightly armed officers took on two gunmen who had blasted a North Hollywood neighborhood with automatic weapons after robbing a Bank of America branch on Feb. 28, 1997. Eleven officers and six civilians were wounded.

Larry Eugene Phillips, 26, died when he shot himself under the chin as a police bullet struck his spine. Matasareanu, 30, was wounded 29 times and bled to death as he lay handcuffed on a street.

The jury heard conflicting medical opinions on whether Matasareanu could have survived. But based on testimony the panel had asked to have read back this week, jurors appeared to focus on whether emergency medical help was or could have been available.

Update hourly