Agababa jury hung; votes 11-1 “not guilty” of aggravated murder

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This is the second time a jury in the Agababa murder trial was deadlocked.

Guam – History has indeed repeated itself in the retrial of murder suspect Alan Agababa as a jury today was unable to reach a verdict despite numerous attempts at doing so.

Judge Michael Bordallo finally discharged the deadlocked jury after sending them back twice into deliberations.

However, according to Judiciary of Guam Spokesman Shawn Gumataotao, the judge did not officially declare a mistrial or a hung jury.

Defense counsel Curtis Van De Veld, however, clarified for PNC, “When the jury is discharged, it is legally implicated that a mistrial occurs otherwise there would be no basis to release the jury.”

According to Defense Counsel Curtis Van De Veld, on the aggravated murder charge, the jury was divided with 11 voting not guilty and only one voting guilty. As to the charge of murder, the jury voted five not guilty with seven voting guilty.

On Friday, Judge Michael Bordallo issued a stern admonition to jurors before he sent them back into deliberations, urging them to weigh the evidence in hopes that the re-trial of Agababa will have a different outcome from the first deadlocked jury.

As deliberations continued today with no word on a verdict by early afternoon the question became: why is the jury having a difficult time coming to a conclusion.?

The answer may lie in the stipulation that Agababa must be convicted or proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt in a murder case surrounded by “what ifs.”

Here is what we know: First, no murder weapon was identified or found in the death of Agababa’s mother, 55-year-old Shelly Bernstein. Second, Agababa may be the last person to see his mother alive, but he is also the person who discovered her body in a pool of blood at their Tamuning Apartment. Third, Agababa is alleged to have motive by standing to inherit nearly half of the $800,000 dollars in death benefits. Fourth, an autopsy from Medical Examiner Doctor Aurelio Espinola indicates that Bernstein died in her bed as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.

However, testimony from expert witness Forensic Pathologist Joseph Cohen disputes the medical examiner’s report, in part, not only calling the autopsy a “poor work up” but also that Bernstein’s death was the result of an overdose of the opiate fentanyl combined with a non lethal wound to her head.

Then there is the new information, a supplemental report on the effects of fentanyl which Medical Exmaminer Dr. Aurelio Espinola added to the autopsy report in January of this year.

This report focused on the side effects of fentanyl which include depressed breathing and cessation of the heart if combined with benzodiazapines which was also present in Bernstein’s toxicology report.

Cohen further theorized that she could have hit her head and ambulated to her bed where she died from overdose. There was also testimony that the blood smears and possibly bone fragments were never tested.

Then there is the conflicting testimonies from authorities. While first responders indicated that there was no sign of forced entry, Crime Scene Detectives stated that pry marks were found on the metal plate of the front door. Agababa alleges that his home was broken into and two laptops along with his passport were stolen.

Next is the interpretation of Agababa’s seemingly emotionless demeanor and the voluntary production of a gas receipt, which the prosecution highlighted as an attempt to provide an alibi. There also the testimony from a convicted felon alleging that Agababa sought his help in the murder plot, followed by the testimony from a convicted drug dealer alleging that Agababa confessed to her murder and disposed of the evidence.

What this all boils down to is whether or not Agababa is a victim of circumstance or if he plotted and carried out his mother’s murder.

Judge Michael Bordallo discharged the jury at 2 p.m. on Monday and a hearing was set for Thursday when Van De Veld said discussions on his client’s release will be further had.

SOURCEJolene Toves
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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.