A federal jury in Miami indicated Monday it was nearing a deadlock over whether a second man should be convicted in the shooting deaths of four people last year aboard a fishing boat that the suspects allegedly hoped to hijack to Cuba. The judge told jurors to continue deliberating the next day.
The jury wrote in a note to U.S. District Judge Paul Huck that they have little hope of coming to an agreement in the trial of 20-year-old Guillermo Zarabozo.
"As a jury, we feel stuck in the sand and have no hope or expectation that we will be able to move to consensus in one direction or the other," the note said. Huck urged the jurors to reach a verdict if at all possible.
Prosecutors said Zarabozo and 36-year-old Kirby Archer booked the "Joe Cool" for a phony trip to the Bahamas on Sept. 22, 2007, but intended to hijack it to Cuba. The boat's captain, his wife and two crew members were shot to death and dumped into the ocean. Zarabozo blamed Archer for hatching the plot and for killing the crew.
Zarabozo's attorneys say the young man was also a victim of Archer, a master manipulator who plotted alone to hijack the vessel and fired all the fatal shots. Archer pleaded guilty to the killings in July.
Zarabozo was unaware that Archer planned to seize the boat and head for Cuba when they went aboard, said Zarabozo's attorney Anthony Natale. Zarabozo's attorneys said their client thought the two men were going to Bimini, Bahamas, to take a security job Archer claimed to have lined up with a CIA connection.
During trial, prosecutors said Zarabozo was part of the plot for months, bringing aboard his 9mm Glock handgun and extra ammunition and clips.
The vessel failed to return on time and the Coast Guard later discovered it abandoned and adrift far south of its destination. The Coast Guard found Archer and Zarabozo, along with their luggage, a few miles away in the boat's life raft.
Zarabozo faces life in prison if convicted of conspiracy, murder, kidnapping, robbery and other charges in a 16-count indictment.