Hung jury on Beretta "Unsafe" gun trial.


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Pilgrim
December 25, 2003, 12:29 PM
Posted on Wed, Dec. 24, 2003

Jury splits in handgun safety case
By Kiley Russell
CONTRA COSTA TIMES

OAKLAND - The second trial in a $10 million lawsuit against the Beretta handgun manufacturers filed by an East Bay couple whose son was killed in an accidental shooting ended in a mistrial Tuesday.

The first trial after the 1994 death of Griffin "Kenzo" Dix also ended without a resolution, but the boy's parents, Griffin and Lynn Dix, vow to try again.

"To me it's like we're in a fight and this was one battle and it's a draw," Lynn Dix said Tuesday.

One of the Dix's lawyers, Daralyn Durie, said they could have a new court date by early next year.

"We're looking forward to the retrial," Durie said.

Walnut Creek attorney Craig Livingston, representing Beretta, said he is confident he can successfully defend his client in the likely event of a third trial.

"The plaintiffs have been pursuing Beretta for eight years. With this trial, they've failed to convince two Alameda County juries that the design of the pistol contributed to this tragic accident," Livingston said.

Attorneys for Lynn and Griffin Dix argued during the two-week trial that their son would not have been shot if the semi-automatic handgun had an effective device to alert whoever was holding it that a bullet was in the chamber.

Michael Soe shot Dix through the heart on May 29, 1994, while the two were playing with the gun belonging to Soe's father, Clarence Soe. The teenager told authorities he thought the gun was unloaded before he pulled the trigger.

Michael Soe had replaced a loaded magazine with one that contained no bullets after retrieving the pistol from an unlocked camera bag in the bedroom of his father's Berkeley house. But a single bullet remained in the chamber.

Built into that weapon was a device that was supposed to show the handler when a bullet was in the chamber.

San Francisco attorney Elliot Peters told jurors that the indicator was insufficient -- so much so that Clarence Soe did not even know it was there despite having fired the gun some 12,000 times.

Livingston argued, however, that responsibility for safely storing the weapon belonged solely with Clarence Soe. The man was an avid sport shooter who spent thousands of dollars on guns and equipment, but never bothered to buy a $12 gunlock, Livingston said.

Soe wanted his son to have access to the gun, Livingston said, and trained the Berkeley High School student on how to safely handle the weapon.

For the Dix family, the verdict is still a long time coming. The pair sat through one trial that ended in 1998 with a verdict in favor of Beretta. An appeals court later renewed their hopes after overturning the verdict because of juror misconduct.

The evidence was clear, Griffin Dix said, that gun manufacturers market their products to families, but fail to take responsibility for them when a tragedy occurs.

But not all the jurors in this second case agreed. After deliberating for a little over three full days, the jury sent a note Monday to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gordon Baranco saying they were deadlocked at six votes in favor of the plaintiffs and six in favor of the defendant.

Because it was a civil suit, the Dixes only needed nine jurors to agree with them to win the case, not the unanimous verdict necessary in a criminal trial. But by Tuesday the jury still couldn't make a decision and Baranco declared a mistrial.

"You were given a very, very difficult case," Baranco said.

Jurors seemed to vacillate at times, once even reaching a decision in favor of the Dixes on one question, before settling into a standoff.

"It was frustrating because some people discussed the case and some people were entrenched," said Theresa Cox-Brewer, a 47-year-old receptionist from Hayward who voted for the plaintiff.

Tempers flared during deliberations and "it got ugly" toward the end, Cox-Brewer said.

The questions jurors seemed to have the most trouble with were over whether the handgun performed as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect and whether the weapon's design was defective.

The debate bogged down over who is an "average consumer," according to Cox-Brewer and jury foreman Raymound Johnson, a 37-year-old telephone company technician.

"It got tense," Johnson said.


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Reach Kiley Russell at 925-847-2119 or krussell@cctimes.com.

Link to story (http://www.bayarea.com/mld/cctimes/7563453.htm)

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Thumper
December 25, 2003, 12:33 PM
Soe wanted his son to have access to the gun, Livingston said, and trained the Berkeley High School student on how to safely handle the weapon.

Evidently not.

longeyes
December 25, 2003, 12:48 PM
Too bad we don't have a transcript of that "debate" to post here.:D

redhead
December 25, 2003, 01:02 PM
Two trials, two losses, and the Dix family wants to try yet again. As pointed out, Michael Soe had supposedly been taught safe gun handle, and yet, he deliberately pointed the firearm at his friend and pulled the trigger. And this is Beretta's fault how?

longeyes
December 25, 2003, 01:06 PM
"Consumer safety" does not trump the Second Amendment. Yet.

Face it, the Bill of Rights was written for people who took politics and freedom seriously and were willing to put their lives on the line for liberty. They didn't gnash their teeth over what passes for "a bad day" in suburbia. We have gotten very prosperous--and very soft.

El Rojo
December 25, 2003, 02:28 PM
Good thing there are at least six smart people still in that area. How you could possibly blame the gun manufacturer for an unathorized user from not properly using the firearm is beyond anyone with an ounce of common sense. Some how I don't think the kid had shot the gun 12,000 times and would make a mistake like that, unless he was under the influence. I think this is an important victory for Berretta. In cases like this does the family have to pay Berretta's legal fees? I think that is the reform the courts need. Sue and lose, pay everyone's costs.

Standing Wolf
December 25, 2003, 02:43 PM
"We're looking forward to the retrial," Durie said.

Just because the so-called "case" should have been dismissed at the outset doesn't mean the leftist extremists don't see an opportunity to drive up the cost of firearms by inflicting massive legal bills on Beretta.

You can always count on leftists to do the wrong thing.

Lone_Gunman
December 25, 2003, 02:50 PM
I don't think its a leftist issue to sue Beretta, its simply a lawyer trying to extort a company.

I agree the case should have been dismissed. Wouldnt it be great if Beretta could sue the lawyer for legal expenses of the two lost trials?

Skunkabilly
December 25, 2003, 03:10 PM
Of course they're unsafe, think the military would carry them if they didn't go bang? :banghead:

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