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No Verdict In Child Murder Trial; Jurors To Deliberate Friday

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Geralyn Graham in court on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

Geralyn Graham in court on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013. (Source: CBS4)

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Rilya Wilson

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Jurors will continue to deliberate Friday on the fate of accused child killer Geralyn Graham. It’s a trial that began 2 months ago and has involved dozens of witnesses and allegations against Graham who is accused of smothering 4-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson to death. The child’s body has never been found and the state’s case relied on confessions Graham allegedly made to three jailhouse informants.

The 12-member jury  were deadlocked on the murder charge Thursday afternoon and sent back a note letting the judge know that they could not reach a unanimous decision on the murder charge. They said they were deadlocked by a vote of 11-1. Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez instructed them to continue working.

But by Thursday evening, jurors had not reached a unanimous decision and Judge Tinkler-Mendez allowed them to go home and return Friday morning.

“Get a good night’s rest and return tomorrow at 9:15,” Tinkler-Mendez told jurors. “You will have bagels and breakfast waiting and you will continue working.”

Jurors also indicated that they had reached a decision on the four other charges which are: kidnapping and three counts of aggravated child abuse.

The verdict will not be read until they reach a decision on all five counts.

The eight women and four men began deliberating at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

State prosecutors had argued that 67-year-old Graham smothered 4-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson in late 2000 and disposed of her body, which has never been found.  ”It happened because of this woman’s frustration and hatred of Rilya,” Assistant State Attorney Joshua Weintraub said in closing arguments. “This woman hated Rilya Wilson for a variety of reasons.”

During his rebuttal closing, defense attorney Michael Matters hammered home a key point that no physical evidence links Graham to the child’s murder.

The defense raised the possibility that Rilya might be alive and might have been sold to someone else.

The state’s case relied on the testimony of three jailhouse snitches who said Graham made incriminating statements about Rilya.

One of those informants was convicted armed robber Robin Lunceford who the defense said concocted the story as a way to get out of prison.  Matters told jurors there were numerous inconsistencies in Lunceford’s testimony. Lunceford, who has spent more than half of her life behind bars, got a life prison sentence reduced to 10 years in exchange for her testimony. She is scheduled to be released in 2014.

The case triggered a major scandal at Florida’s child-welfare agency because Rilya’s disappearance wasn’t discovered for 15 months. The case led to resignations and the passage of reform laws.

Graham has always maintained her innocence. She faces life in prison if convicted.

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