Jurors leaned forward in their seats and squinted at evidence on a courtroom video screen Wednesday, as they struggled to reach a verdict about whether volunteer firefighter Caleb Lacey set a fire that killed a Lawrence mother and three of her children almost exactly a year ago.
The jury has been deliberating for more than a week, asking for the testimony of several witnesses to be read back, and re-examining numerous videos and photographs that were presented during the three-week trial.
Outside the courtroom, lawyers, friends and family of the suspect and the victims speculated quietly about the deliberations. Still, the third full day of deliberations came to a close with no verdict.
Lacey, 20, of Lawrence, faces murder and arson charges in the fire that killed Morena Vanegas, 46; her stepson, Saul Preza, 19; and two daughters, Andrea, 10, and Susanna, 9. Morena's husband, Edit Vanegas, escaped the fire by jumping out a window with his two young sons.
Prosecutor Michael Canty contended throughout the trial that Lacey had set the fire so that he could respond to it and act as a hero in saving the residents.
Lacey's lawyer, Christopher Cassar of Huntington, said his client is innocent, and tried to cast suspicion on Edit Vanegas as the real killer in the case.
The jury asked for two bits of evidence Wednesday. In the morning, they asked for a reading of Edit Vanegas' testimony. According to a jury note read by County Court Judge Jerald Carter, jurors wanted to check which window Vanegas said he fled through.
In the afternoon, jurors asked to view for a second time a videotape that prosecutors said shows Caleb Lacey's car near the scene of the fire close to the time when the fire was set.
After the video was replayed in court, many jurors turned to look at a female juror in the back row as if to ask if she wanted to see the video played again. The juror, who had been on the edge of her seat during the playback, appeared satisfied and Carter sent them back to deliberate.