Despite a guilty verdict, Mario Careaga has been released on allegations of juror misconduct in his DUI manslaughter trial over the death of Miami Heat dancer Nancy Lopez-Ruiz. Christina Hernandez reports.
Despite a guilty verdict, Mario Careaga has been released on allegations of juror misconduct in his DUI manslaughter trial over the death of Miami Heat dancer Nancy Lopez-Ruiz.
The verdict was placed on hold after allegations surfaced of a juror making anti-gay comments during deliberations on the fate of Careaga, who is gay.
The jury found Careaga guilty of DUI manslaughter after 11 and a half hours of deliberations. Careaga was charged in the crash that killed Lopez-Ruiz on Sept. 10, 2010. Careaga, 46, had pleaded not guilty.
Careaga was found guilty on one count of DUI manslaughter and guilty on one count of DUI manslaughter with an unlawful blood alcohol level.
Once the anti-gay allegations were made, the judge asked each juror: "Did you hear anyone make any derogatory comment regarding Mr. Careaga, or Mr. Stapleton, or their lifestyle, or being gay or anything like that?"
While he said he was unclear about the exact comment that was made, one juror said he did hear something.
All parties will reconvene at the Broward County Courthouse Thursday at 10:30 a.m. to decide how to move forward in the case.
Before making its decision, the jury had reviewed Careaga's testimony from Monday. The jury had seen video of the accident and video of Careaga drinking at the Galleria Mall half an hour before the crash.
After deliberating on Tuesday for five hours, the jurors sent Broward Circuit Judge Illona Holmes a question: what should be verdict be if Careaga's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit of .08 percent, but he was not impaired?
Holmes declined to answer the question to avoid influencing the verdict, she said.
Police said Lopez-Ruiz, who was set to begin her first season with the Miami Heat Dancers, was riding her motorcycle in the 700 block of E. Sunrise Boulevard when she was struck by a Mercedes driven by Careaga.
Police said Careaga drifted out of his lane when he hit the 22-year-old, who was thrown from her motorcycle and died at the scene.
Careaga told officers he'd had two vodka drinks before the incident after being arrested, police said. Authorities said Careaga had a blood alcohol level of .28 at the time of the crash, more than three times the legal limit in Florida.
Check back here for updates on this developing story.