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18 Hours and No Verdict, Yet

Jury still out after 18 hours of deliberation.

Marianne Oweiss’ brother, sister and mother have followed the trial of Zakaria Oweiss via daily e-mail updates to Germany from Patty Sanders, a Montgomery County resident who has attended most every day of the two-week trial.

Sanders’ mother lives in the neighborhood of Marianne’s sister in Germany, Marianne’s homeland.

Zakaria Oweiss’ brother, sister, friends and family members kept him company in a conference room on the third floor of the Circuit Court as they waited for the 12-person jury to come to a verdict in the Potomac murder case.

Zakaria Oweiss is charged with the murder of his wife, Marianne, 49, who was found lying in a pool of blood in the basement of the couple’s home on Aug. 15, 2001.

“It is a hard time right now living through the trial being informed by e-mail,” wrote Dr. Thomas Breinlich, Marianne’s younger brother, via e-mail from Germany.

“As in many marriages there may have been shortcomings on either side. We do not know and of course cannot judge personal misunderstandings in the marriage of Dr. Oweiss and our sister,” wrote Breinlich. “But having an extramarital affair, trying to put money aside (if it is true) is not a crime, but killing a person is the worst crime we can imagine and should be punished to the full extent of the law.”

Defense attorney Peter Davis says his client is not guilty and asked the jury to acquit Oweiss of the murder charge.

THE JURY was still deliberating at the end of the day Tuesday, and went home for the evening without reaching a verdict. Although the 10-day trial ended the afternoon of Friday, March 7, following more than 28 witnesses for the prosecution, eight witnesses from the defense, more than 200 exhibits filed by the state as evidence, and over 60 pieces of evidence filed by the defense.

Jury members deliberated three hours on Friday, seven hours on Monday, March 10, and another seven hours and 40 minutes on Tuesday, March 11 before The Almanac’s Tuesday presstime.

The jury will continue deliberating until it reaches an unanimous verdict on whether to find Zakaria Oweiss innocent or guilty on counts of first-degree murder and second degree murder, or until they agree that they cannot reach consensus.

EMERGENCY PERSONNEL found Marianne Oweiss lying in a frog-like position in her blood on the basement floor of her and her husband’s Potomac home on Kentsdale Drive on Aug. 15, 2001.

Emergency technicians and police found Omar, his girlfriend Claudia Viens and Zakaria Oweiss home that morning. The three were transported to police headquarters so police could learn what happened.

Officer Jackie Lee Falls transported Zakaria Oweiss. As they approached the station, “he appeared very nervous to me,” said Falls. “He said, ‘God help me, God help us,’” testified Falls on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2003.

Falls said he observed a bloodlike substance on Oweiss’ shirts, pants and glasses.

“He asked me, ‘Should I get a lawyer?’” said Falls, who said he answered, “‘It’s not my place to give that kind of advice.’”

Early the next morning, Aug. 16, 2001, police charged Zakaria Oweiss with first-degree murder. He had blood on his shirts, pants, shoes, watch, pager, eyeglasses, and wedding ring, police said. DNA testing later proved that 44 blood stains on his pants and 10 blood stains on his shirt was consistent with Marianne Oweiss’ blood.

Medical examiner Dr. Theodore King said Marianne Oweiss died of “multiple blunt force injuries to the head.” Oweiss had multiple bruises on the back of her hands, caused as she held her head in self defense, King said. She had numerous bruises on her brain and fractures of the skull, testified King.

OWEISS ORIGINALLY was scheduled for trial in February of 2001. His trial was continued in February, May and again in October when complications during the sniper attacks postponed the selection of a jury.

The trial started on Friday, Feb. 21, over 18 months after he was originally charged.

“He’s been given breaks all along. His defense attorneys’ primary tactic is to delay the case as long as possible. They were successful to get the case continued a number of times,” said Doug Gansler, state’s attorney for Montgomery County.

Since he posted $5 million bond in November of 2001, Oweiss has been living in Kensington with his brother Ibrahim Oweiss, a retired professor of economics at Georgetown University.

“No one charged and indicted with first-degree murder should be free. That should be the norm for all people, regardless of their socio-economic status,” Gansler said. “The only glaring difference is he has a lot of money.”

If Oweiss is found guilty of first-degree murder he faces a sentence of up to life in prison. If he is found guilty of second degree murder he faces a sentence of up to 30 years.

IF OWEISS is found guilty, the state could ask Judge S. Michael Pincus to revoke Oweiss’ bond immediately since prosecutors still consider him a flight risk due to his dual citizenship in the United States and Egypt, said Gansler.

A judge can revoke bond status even if the state does not make the request, said John McLane, spokesperson for State’s Attorney’s Office for Montgomery County.

Although Oweiss’ passport was seized, Gansler said it is easier to leave the country than to enter it.

“One would hope one would lock him up pending sentencing,” said Gansler.

But that all presupposes a guilty verdict, he said. The jury could still acquit Oweiss this week. And, there is still a possibility of a hung jury, in which juror members don’t reach an unanimous verdict at all.

“I don’t think that happens very often,” said McLane. McLane agreed that it’s a misconception that the longer a jury deliberates, the better the chances for the defendant.

“It’s done when it’s done,” said McLane.