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Jurors locked on four charges

Judge declares a mistrial on counts of attempted murder and arson in man’s case.

December 10, 2009|By Veronica Rocha

PASADENA — A Pasadena Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Thursday for four of 12 counts against a 46-year-old Glendale man accused of setting fire to his foreclosed home while his wife and children slept inside.

Jurors were deadlocked on three counts of attempted murder and one count of arson after deliberating for two days in the trial of Brian Walder, Judge Suzette Clover said in court. Nine jurors voted not guilty, while three voted guilty on the four counts.

The forewoman told Clover that the jury voted more than 20 times and continually came up deadlocked on the four counts.

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“We are all at the point that nobody is swaying to either side,” the forewoman said.

Jurors sent a note to the judge Wednesday, saying they were at a standstill and could not come to a conclusion on the four counts, Clover said.

On Thursday, she asked the jury if there was anything the court could provide to help them reach a unanimous vote.

The jurors said no further moves would change their decision.

“We wish we could come to a conclusion, but it’s not possible,” the forewoman said. “It would make this easy for everyone, but no one is changing their mind.”

Having heard the forewoman’s concerns about the jury’s inability to agree on the charges, Clover declared a mistrial on the four counts.

Walder was also charged with two counts of child abuse and endangerment, four counts of disobeying a court order and two counts of child abuse endangerment likely to produce great bodily injury.

Jurors found Walder guilty on the remaining eight counts.

Walder was accused of setting fire to the outside patio of his home on the 1600 block of West Mountain Street on Jan. 24, 2008, while his family slept, police said. No one was injured.

A police officer who responded to a neighbor’s call tapped a window of the home to wake Walder, who was sleeping in a chair.

Walder’s wife and two daughters, ages 4 and 8, were evacuated before the fire spread indoors.

The family had been living at the home for three years, but they were in foreclosure after Walder lost his job and was unable to pay an accumulating $1-million debt, police said.

Prosecutors said Walder’s demeanor changed after that; his wife testified that he became depressed.

Walder’s attorney, Stephen Kahn, claimed that his client was drinking the night of the blaze and spilled gasoline on the ground as he tried to light a fire pit. Kahn said an ember could have sparked the spilled gasoline and started a fire on the wood patio.


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