Belonga jury fails to reach verdict again

NASHUA – Jurors deliberated for a fourth full day Monday without reaching a verdict in the trial of a mother accused of killing her 21-month-old daughter in 2006.

The state courts will be closed today for Veterans Day, so deliberations will resume Wednesday morning.

Nicole Belonga, 27, of 65 Alder Drive, Nashua, could face up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, though the charge carries no mandatory minimum and typical sentences are somewhat less than life.

Shortly before leaving for the day Monday, jurors posed a question about “recklessness,” which is an aspect of both the second-degree murder and the lesser, included charge of manslaughter.

Jurors wanted to know whether they could consider Belonga’s behavior after Rylea was injured in deciding whether she acted recklessly, one of the prosecutors, Assistant Attorney General Ben Agati said. The answer, in short, is “yes.”

Belonga’s daughter, Rylea Belonga, died in January 2006 of brain injuries that doctors testified could only have been caused by violent abuse, including shaking and some sort of blow to the head. Prosecutors contend the timing and onset of Rylea’s symptoms prove that Belonga caused her daughter’s death, while Belonga’s lawyers blame a baby sitter’s boyfriend, who was with Rylea when she collapsed.

Jurors began deliberations on the morning of Nov. 5, after hearing just over two weeks of testimony, evidence and arguments. The jury asked one previous question last Thursday, when they sought clarification regarding direct and circumstantial evidence. Jurors pose questions in writing, and the judge generally consults with the lawyers on both sides before responding, also in writing. Jury deliberations are conducted in secret.