The jury returned verdicts twice Tuesday in the murder trial of 47-year-old Kelly Soo Park. The first time the panel found Park not guilty of first-degree murder. After hearing more arguments from lawyers, the panel returned to deliberations and then came back with an acquittal on the lesser included offense of second-degree murder.
As the court clerk read the verdict, Park broke down in tears. After the verdict was announced, outraged friends of the victim, 21-year-old Juliana Redding, screamed out in the courtroom, calling Park a murderer.
A team of sheriff's deputies threatened to arrest the people causing the disturbance, including the victim's mother. Due to the tension in the courtroom, Park had to be escorted out through a side exit.
Park had been accused of murdering Redding, who once appeared in Maxim magazine, in the victim's Santa Monica apartment on March 15, 2008. Prosecutors contended the killing was carried out in response to a failed business deal between Redding's father, an Arizona pharmacist, and a doctor for whom Park worked and Redding had dated.
Prosecutors alleged Dr. Munir Uwayda paid Park more than $1 million for the murder before he fled the country. Redding's death occurred five days after her father pulled out of the potential deal with Uwaydah.
During the trial, the deputy district attorney described how Park overpowered Redding and strangled her, leaving Park's fingerprints and blood in the home, as well as her DNA on Redding's neck and cellphone.
Park's defense attorney countered that the DNA and fingerprints were not conclusive and that Park simply wasn't strong enough to kill someone with her bare hands.
Investigators first tested the DNA of 40 women Redding knew, but found nothing. Then detectives turned to Uwaydah's associates, and Park was linked to the murder through DNA evidence. It took two years to identify Park as a suspect.
Uwaydah was never charged in the case. He left the country and was believed to be living in Lebanon.
Park's defense attorney, George Buehler, said his client is not ready to make any public comments.
"I think she's really just relieved and wanting to melt into the background and get her life back," said Buehler.
Prosecutors would not grant interviews, but District Attorney Jackie Lacey released a written statement.
"We believed in our case and the strength of our evidence. We fought hard and fair in the court of law to obtain justice. Although we disagree with the verdict, we respect our system of justice," Lacey said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.