A Federal Way pest-control manager could face a new trial in the strychnine poisoning death of his wife after jurors Wednesday announced they were deadlocked, resulting in a mistrial.
Joseph Naimo, 63, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs about 12 p.m. with more than a dozen family members and friends looking on.
Some of them shouted words of support or said, “I love you.” After leaving the courtroom, they said they were surprised and disappointed that Naimo wasn’t acquitted.
“We believe in Joe. We want to see justice done,” said friend Melvin Hoage, 57, of Bonney Lake. “It’s sad that he’s got to go back and do this over again.”
Never miss a local story.
Naimo appeared stoic as he headed back to jail, where he’s already spent nearly 17 months and where he’ll wait while prosecutors decide whether to refile charges. His bail is set at $1 million.
Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said the decision whether to retry the case will come within the next two weeks.
Naimo was charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Ann Marie, 53. He was alone with her in their Federal Way home on Nov. 28, 2008, during the hour it took for strychnine to kill her.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated more than five days at the Regional Justice Center in Kent before announcing about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday that they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.
Attorneys met with jurors after the mistrial but declined to publicly disclose the vote tally.
Testimony lasted seven weeks. In closing arguments that covered 1½ days last week, attorneys provided conflicting explanations for Ann Naimo’s death.
Defense attorney Les Tolzin said Ann Naimo, under the influence of alcohol and prescription medications, intentionally ingested strychnine taken from a collector’s bottle that her daughter had given her eight years earlier.
But King County deputy prosecutor Jimmy Hung said Joseph Naimo was “sick of a nagging wife and had his eyes on another woman,” and that’s why he killed her.
Hung said there was no way to know whether the bottle — which was brought forward months after Joseph Naimo was arrested and jailed — was the source of the strychnine that killed his wife.
“There is no piece of evidence to prove to you how he did it,” Hung said. “Because the best evidence is dead.”
Hung said Ann Naimo showed no signs of being suicidal and that her husband was the only person with the knowledge, opportunity and motive to kill her with strychnine.
The prosecutor said Naimo was having an emotional – and perhaps sexual – affair with his wife’s best friend, and cited 2,624 phone calls during a 17-month period between Naimo and the other woman.
Naimo didn’t testify during the trial. But during eight hours of interrogation by Federal Way police upon his arrest, he repeatedly denied killing his wife of 10 years. He admitted being close to his wife’s best friend but denied a sexual relationship.
Jurors were shown several hours of the police’s videotaped questioning. Naimo insisted to police he loved his wife and didn’t hurt her.
After Wednesday’s mistrial, Joseph Naimo’s sister, Gina Favorite, criticized the police investigation and the justice system for not allowing evidence she believes would have helped her brother.
“He’s innocent, totally innocent,” she said.
Attorneys on both sides said the jury deserves praise for persevering through about two months of trial and deliberations and carefully considering the evidence and testimony.
“They worked really hard,” said Kristin Richardson, senior deputy prosecutor.
“It was a hard thing for them to do,” Tolzin said.
Superior Court Judge Deborah Fleck presided over the trial.
First-degree murder carries a prison sentence of 20 years to 26 years, eight months.