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Chambers Jury Swung on Murder Verdict Votes With PM-Chambers, Bjt

March 26, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Deliberations in the ″preppie murder″ trial stalled because the jury could not agree on Robert Chambers Jr.’s state of mind at the time of the killing, a juror says.

Chambers, who could have been convicted of second-degree murder, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree manslaughter in the Aug. 26, 1986 death of Jennifer Dawn Levin, bringing those deliberations to a halt on their ninth day.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said the prospect of a possible mistrial, the strain on the Levin family and circumstantial evidence prompted him to agree to the plea bargain.

″There was one critical issue that kept swaying people back and forth. That issue was understanding the concept of operation of the mind,″ juror Mike Ognibene said after Chambers entered his plea.

″We had the facts, we’d put it all together. The only thing lacking was what was going on in his mind at the time,″ Ognibene said.

Jury forewoman Debra Cavanaugh said the panel was frustrated by the amount of circumstantial evidence.

″Both sides proved their points. Both sides’ stories could be true,″ she said.

Morganthau said three jurors sent notes to the judge saying they could not go on.

A prosecution source who spoke on condition of anonymity said a black juror ″thought a couple of the other jurors were racists,″ a woman juror was concerned because she had been scheduled to begin a new job on March 1 and the third ″just wanted out.″

The jury’s vote swung from 8-4 for acquittal to 9-3 for conviction and ended up 7-5 for acquittal on the second-degree murder charge, Ognibene said.

″This was the most incredible experience of my life and I am satisfied the jury system works,″ he told reporters who mobbed him as he left the courthouse.

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