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Leifer jury still deliberating, hung on some charges

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Published: 31 March 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

The jury has reached a verdict on some charges but is still working to get agreement on others.

Jurors considering verdicts in ultra-Orthodox Jewish principal Malka Leifer's sexual abuse trial are still deliberating a week after they retired to decide the case.

The foreman has told the judge they have reached unanimous verdicts on some charges, and believed with more time they could reach agreement on the rest. They were not asked to disclose the verdicts reached on the decided charges.

Leifer, 56, is accused of sexually abusing Melbourne sisters Nicole Meyer, Dassi Erlich and Elly Sapper when she was head of religion and principal of the Adass Israel School in the city's eastern suburbs between 2003 and 2007.

The mother of eight pleaded not guilty to 27 charges and has faced trial in the Victorian County Court.

They returned to court on Tuesday morning after 14 hours of deliberations over several days, to ask for advice on a deadlock situation.

"At this point in deliberations, the jury seems unlikely to reach an unanimous decision on all charges," they said in a note to Judge Gamble. "Can you please offer direction on a deadlock? Is it possible to use a majority verdict on charges?"

Judge Gamble said he was not satisfied they were unable to reach a unanimous decision, and urged them to return to the jury room to try to resolve their differences through calm and rational examination of the evidence. Experience has shown juries can often agree if given more time, he said.

Hours later they returned with a second question.

"Is it an outcome to be unanimous on some charges and to be hung on others?" they asked.

The jury foreman indicated they had reached a unanimous verdict on some charges. But he also told the judge they believed there was a realistic prospect they could reach a unanimous decision on some or all the remaining charges if given more time.

By Wednesday afternoon, the jury of six men and six women had deliberated for just over 21 hours across six days. Judge Mark Gamble sent jurors home on Wednesday afternoon with suggestions they walk, run, watch movies, listen to music or play with their pets as a way to clear their minds overnight.

"Try and relax as much as you can overnight to try and recharge and bring a fresh mind into those deliberations tomorrow," he said.

The jury returned to deliberations on Thursday but have yet to reach a verdict on all charges.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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