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Case ends in hung jury for San Miguel man

A jury was deadlocked after more than two days of deliberations in the case against a San Miguel man accused in the shooting death of his wife.

Nine members of the jury voted in favor of not guilty and three voted in favor of guilty on two separate charges against John Aaron Norris in a weeklong trial that concluded Thursday.

A hung jury means that the case may be retried by the District Attorney’s Office and, in that case, a new jury would be assembled to hear the evidence and render a verdict.

Norris, 25, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in a July 9 incident in which he said his gun went off after he tripped over a dog in the couple’s home and fatally wounded his 24-year-old wife, Tasha Dawn Norris.

He also was charged with possession of an illegal semiautomatic rifle found in his home during the investigation of the incident.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran said prosecutors would review the case and gather information from jurors who heard the trial before making a decision about how to proceed.

Norris is scheduled to be back in Judge Michael Duffy’s court July 19 to find out whether the prosecution will retry. Ilan Funke-Bilu, Norris’ attorney, said he’ll discuss the case with prosecutor Matt Kerrigan to try to come to a resolution about a dismissal, but he also is prepared to file a motion to dismiss the case July 19.

“I’m gratified that nine people agreed with my client, and I’m saddened that three felt otherwise,” Funke-Bilu said. “My client has been subjected to charges of crimes he didn’t commit, and he still has this hanging over his head.”

The jury went into deliberations Thursday afternoon and returned with a verdict about 4 p.m. Monday.

The jury of nine women and three men wavered a little in their opinions on the case, but not much, according to one juror who didn’t want to be identified.

“We voted several times, and the votes changed a little bit, but the majority of us were pretty set in our opinions,” said the juror, a San Luis Obispo resident.

The juror voted not guilty on the involuntary manslaughter charge, saying Norris’ statement that he was in the process of securing the gun when it went off was credible.

The juror voted in favor of guilty on the illegal weapon charge — noting Norris went out of state to Mississippi to buy the semiautomatic weapon legally and returned to California, where he should have known it’s illegal to possess the weapon.

Funke-Bilu said Norris didn’t know it was illegal to have the weapon in California, and the semiautomatic firearm he had is used lawfully in the military.

Norris said during his testimony that he bought the weapon in Mississippi while visiting family and that guns are cheaper there.

Funke-Bilu said his client had a long embrace with one juror Monday, and both she and Norris cried after the deadlock was announced.

During closing arguments, Norris reacted emotionally by trying to walk out during part of Kerrigan’s argument and later blurting out the words “I did not” when Kerrigan said Norris blamed his wife for loading the gun when he thought it was unloaded. The judge reprimanded Norris in both instances.

Norris apologized to the judge after that hearing, and Funke-Bilu said last week that his client has felt strong emotions during the case.

Funke-Bilu said Norris’ children, who are 1 and 3 years old, have been in foster care, and that Norris hasn’t been able to see them in supervised visits for a month because the trial interfered with his visitation hours. That has been difficult on his client as well, the lawyer said.

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