A judge has refused to accept a jury's verdict in the trial of a California woman accused of strangling an aspiring model because the jury foreman said two jurors were not following legal instructions.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy told the jury to return Tuesday for further proceedings in the trial of Kelly Soo Park, who has been described as a “female James Bond” and is charged with killing 21-year-old Juliana Redding on March 15, 2008.
The unusual action angered Park's lawyer, who said the judge was trying to coerce jurors into changing a verdict apparently acquitting Park on the charge of first-degree murder.
"The way the court has handled this is ... coercive," attorney George Buehler told Kennedy, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Park, 47, became emotional when she heard there was a verdict. But Kennedy said jurors had trouble reaching a verdict on the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
Earlier in the trial, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Stacy Okun-Wiese told jurors that Park was linked to Redding through a Marina del Rey doctor, Dr. Munir Uwaydah, who employed Park and briefly dated Redding months before the killing, the Los Angeles Times reports.
During that time, Uwaydah offered to go into business with Redding’s father, an Arizona-based pharmacist, Okun-Wiese said.
Redding was killed five days after her father broke off negotiations with Uwaydah, Okun-Wiese said, adding that more than $1 million was transferred to Park or her company from a company owned by Uwaydah.
Uwaydah, who has not been charged in Redding’s death, has denied any involvement in the killing, the newspaper reports. Authorities suspect Uwaydah fled to Lebanon when Park was arrested in 2010.
Buehler, Park’s attorney, told reporters outside of court that it was clear that jurors had rejected a first-degree murder conviction. Buehler has argued that prosecutors have not shown a clear motive for Park to have committed such a brutal crime and said DNA evidence found on Redding’s neck is inconclusive.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.