Mistrial declared at NYC parking-assault trial

AP News
Posted: Nov 14, 2011 2:51 PM
Mistrial declared at NYC parking-assault trial

A man who admitted hitting a woman who ended up brain-damaged in a faceoff over a parking spot is expected to face a new trial after jurors deadlocked Monday.

A judge declared a mistrial in the assault case against Oscar Fuller after jurors said they were stuck in their fourth day of deliberations in a case that's been held up as an extreme example of New Yorkers' conflicts over space _ even parking space _ in a crowded city.

"We cannot reach a unanimous decision. The majority of us believe there is no benefit to continue deliberations," the jury wrote in a note to the judge.

Fuller, 35, didn't dispute hitting Lana Rosas as they clashed in February when he tried to park his van in a Manhattan parking spot she was trying to hold for her boyfriend by standing in it. Nor did anyone question the gravity of the 25-year-old woman's injuries _ she hit her head on the ground, was in a coma for about a week and still wears a helmet because of her injuries.

But Fuller's lawyer argued that the electrician never meant to cause a serious injury, as the assault charge he faced required. And the jury apparently struggled with the issue of intent, asking repeatedly to be re-read legal instructions on it.

Fuller declined to comment as he left court. His lawyer, Thomas A. Kenniff, said Fuller had "mixed feelings because, obviously, he wants closure."

But Kenniff said he took some comfort that the jury wasn't convinced of Fuller's guilt in a case that had the city's tabloids branding him a "parking thug" and a "brute." Across the country, meanwhile, The Los Angeles Times called the case an illustration of "the weightiness of New York City's parking woes."

The Manhattan district attorney's office said it was prepared to retry the case. Fuller is due back in court Jan. 5 to discuss the next steps in the case.

Prosecutors said Fuller hit Rosas in the face out of anger. Rosas _ 8 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than Fuller _ flew off her feet, prosecutors said.

"This is not an ordinary punch. ... This is a massive, massive blow," Manhattan Assistant District Attorney David Hammer told jurors in his closing argument. "Clearly, this man was in a rage."

But Fuller said he hit Rosas after she ran up to him and punched him as he got out of his van.

"Oscar Fuller was confronted with a young lady who acted very recklessly that night _ a young lady who had a couple of stiff drinks in her," Kenniff said in his summation.

"It doesn't mean any of us don't sympathize with her plight. We all do. But those are the facts," he said.

Neither Fuller nor Rosas testified, though jurors saw a videotape of a lengthy statement Fuller gave to police. In it, he said he was "in shock that she hit me."

Rosas' mother, Angie Harrison, declined to comment as she left court. The family's lawyer, David Oddo, said the relatives were disappointed and felt they hadn't gotten justice yet, "but it will come."

If Fuller ultimately is convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison.


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