A jury deadlocked Friday on whether to recommend a death sentence or life imprisonment for a man convicted of the robbery-motivated murders of an MTV music coordinator and another man killed about a week apart in Los Angeles.

Gabriel Aron Ben-Meir. Photo via imaginenocolors.org
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus declared a mistrial after jurors indicated they were split between whether to recommend capital punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole for Jabaar Vincent Thomas, 31.

The six-man, six-woman panel initially indicated Thursday that it was unable to reach a verdict, but the judge had asked the jurors to “get a good night’s sleep” and “try one more time.”

The jury’s final vote was 10 in favor of a death sentence and two for life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Deputy District Attorney John McKinney.

Thomas is due back in court April 15, when prosecutors are expected to announce whether they want to retry the penalty phase.

Thomas was convicted March 11 of the May 8, 2011, murder of Gabriel Ben-Meir, a 30-year-old MTV music coordinator slain near his mid-Wilshire apartment building and the April 30, 2011, shooting death of Marcelo Aragon, a 35-year-old father of two, in the Pico-Union area.

The same panel convicted Thomas of two counts of first-degree murder and found true the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a robbery or attempted robbery involving both victims and multiple murders, along with allegations that Thomas personally and intentionally discharged a shotgun.

Thomas also was convicted of five counts of robbery — one involving the attack on Ben-Meir — and three counts of attempted robbery — one involving the attack on Aragon — and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. Jurors deadlocked on a sixth robbery charge.

The crimes occurred between April 29 and May 10, 2011.

McKinney urged jurors Tuesday to recommend that Thomas be executed for the “cold-blooded executions” of “random strangers.”

“Both of these victims were executed without provocation,” the prosecutor said in his closing argument, noting that Thomas had been released on parole from prison less than five months earlier for possession of a sawed- off shotgun.

Thomas interrupted the prosecutor’s closing argument at one point, yelling that he was “tired of sitting here and having my name slandered for something I didn’t do.” The judge warned Thomas outside the jury’s presence not to make any more statements.

One of Thomas’ attorneys, Keith Bowman, told jurors Wednesday, “You’ve already dealt justice … A life penalty for Mr. Thomas is not a pass.”

Thomas’ lawyer told the jury that it was the defense’s belief that life imprisonment is “the appropriate sentence and death is not.”

— City News Service

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