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Judge rules mistrial after DNA dispute

A man accused of killing a woman waits for another trial after the jury couldn't decide whether DNA evidence was valid.

A jury deadlocked on the validity of DNA evidence in the case of a man accused of beating a woman to death 11 years ago, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial.

Upon hearing the decision Friday, Franklin A. Smith put his head in his hands. He hadn't lost, which could have sent him to death row. But he also wasn't acquitted, which would have meant a trip home with his family.

The 53-year-old mouthed "I love you" to his wife after the decision. Bailiffs then led him out and back to jail, where he will await a new trial sometime in the next few weeks.

"No one likes a mistrial," said one of his attorneys, Assistant Public Defender Gerod Hooper.

Less than two hours after beginning their deliberations, the jurors sent out a note to the judge.

"The difference between the jurors centers on the degree of trust to put in the DNA evidence," the foreman wrote. "There are not discrepancies as to the evidence presented, but rather the absolute validity in this evidence. Many of us on both sides have decided that there is no additional discussion that will change our minds."

The judge read legal instructions telling the jurors how to try again and sent them back to the jury room. Two hours later, they sent out another note. Still hopelessly deadlocked, they said, with both sides "extremely resolute."

Circuit Judge Cynthia Holloway told the lawyers that she had not seen jurors write a more concise representation of their positions. She then declared a mistrial, sending the jurors home.

Eileen Mangold, 50, was working the evening of Sept. 19, 1989, as a cashier at the now-defunct Kangaroo Fuel Stop on U.S. 301. Witnesses saw a man force her into her station wagon and then drive off with her in the passenger seat, according to sheriff's reports.

Her car was discovered five hours later at Krycul Avenue in Riverview. Her body was found eight hours later.

Investigators found fingerprints on the car but could not link them to anyone. Last year, a fingerprint expert ran some of the prints again and came up with a hit. A partial print taken from the hood of the car matched Smith, who had been arrested and fingerprinted in unrelated cases before the killing. The jury did not hear about Smith's lengthy criminal record, which includes aggravated assault and rape charges.

Investigators questioned Smith, who told them he never knew Mangold and never had sex with her. When asked, he provided a blood sample. Authorities arrested Smith in December after DNA tests came back as a match to the semen found on the blouse.

Smith's attorneys attacked the DNA findings, disputing the trillion-to-one odds that the semen belonged only to Smith and the way investigators labeled and handled the samples.

Juror Ernest Street, who declined to say which way he voted, said most of the hang-ups were over the DNA. There wasn't much talk about the defense's theory that another man in the neighborhood committed the crime, he said.

Some of the jurors had problems with the way the evidence was gathered, including missing labels on the blood samples, Street said. The tiny amount of DNA recovered from the blouse also was a problem for some, he said.

"Maybe it sounds obvious, but the DNA didn't convince everyone," Street said. "I guess it wasn't enough."

The result left Mangold's children exhausted and dreading a return to court to hear all the evidence again. They were convinced of Smith's guilt and thought the DNA evidence was solid.

"What can I say?" said Mangold's daughter, Cheryl Simpson. "There's a great deal of disappointment."

_ Graham Brink can be reached at (813) 226-3365 or brinksptimes.com.

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