By Kate Cagle
A Santa Monica man convicted of stabbing his friend to death will get a new trial, after a judge with the 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the conviction.
Two years ago, Ryan Bright was sentenced to 16 years to life in state prison for the 2012 killing of his friend, Jensen Gray.
Bright’s attorney appealed the conviction saying the court should have granted a mistrial because of juror misconduct during deliberations. A juror admitted to the judge he had disregarded the court’s instructions not to consult outside source material when he looked up “murder” and “manslaughter” in the Penal Code.
The juror was immediately dismissed and replaced by an alternate juror. Although the trial judge questioned the remaining panel to try to determine whether they had been influenced by the dismissed juror, Judge James R. Dabney found the trial court did not ask enough questions to know whether the jurors had indeed been tainted.
The stabbing happened after a night of drinking at the Archstone apartments on the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street in Downtown Santa Monica in 2012. Gray was 27 years old when he was killed.
During the 2014 trial, Bright told jurors he acted in self-defense after a night of partying with his friends. Witnesses and SMPD officers testified and presented forensic evidence linking Bright to the killing. An expert testified Bright’s estimated blood alcohol level the night of the attack was likely around .30.
During deliberations, the panel was initially “hung,” eight to four concerning the degree of the murder sentence. Eventually, jurors found Bright used a “deadly and dangerous weapon” and committed second degree murder.