LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cries and screams erupted in a Los Angeles courtroom as family and friends of an aspiring model heard a jury’s verdict acquitting the 47-year-old woman accused of strangling her.
Onlookers in the courtroom who knew victim Juliana Redding shouted obscenities and called defendant Kelly Soo Park a murderer.
They appeared ready to pounce on Park — who prosecutors had described as a killer-for-hire — and were held back by deputies as she turned and was led through a rear entrance.
Jurors had been escorted out a back way before the outburst.
Park wept when the final verdict was announced. Redding’s family left the courthouse without comment.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey later issued a statement saying prosecutors believed in the strength of the evidence and had fought hard and fair in court.
“Although we disagree with the verdict, we respect our system of justice,” Lacey said.
Prosecutors had depicted Park as a hired killer who strangled Redding with her bare hands on instructions from the model’s former boyfriend.
The panel returned two separate verdicts in the case after struggling with legal definitions and receiving additional instructions.
The panel initially found Park not guilty of first-degree murder. After hearing more arguments from lawyers, jurors deliberated further and came back with an acquittal on the lesser included offense of second-degree murder.
They had reported on Monday that they were deadlocked on the second-degree murder charge with two jurors in disagreement. They asked for clarification of the difference between first- and second-degree murder.
The judge allowed attorneys for both sides to address the panel briefly with additional arguments. Deputy District Attorney Stacy Okun-Wiese explained the legal requirements to convict Park.
Park’s lawyer, George Buehler, told the panel: “There are still a lot of unanswered questions about what happened in the apartment.”
Redding was killed in Santa Monica in 2008. Prosecutors alleged that Park strangled her with her bare hands and left overwhelming DNA evidence on the body and around the apartment.
They say a doctor who had dated Redding gave Park a six-figure payment to kill her after a business deal soured with Redding’s father.
During the trial, there was testimony from the father that he heard the boyfriend refer to Park as a female James Bond. He did not elaborate.
Defense attorneys say Park lacked the brutal, evil intent the crime required, and she wasn’t there when Redding was killed.
Attorney Mark Kasabian said the defense was gratified with the outcome of the trial, but it was a tragic case. He said the Redding family had lost a daughter in a terrible crime.
“I hope they find who killed her,” he said.