A former convenience store clerk will keep collecting winnings from a $4 million Massachusetts Lottery scratch ticket after a Superior Court judge declared a mistrial yesterday in a dispute over ownership of the ticket.
The civil jury in Barnstable Superior Court was deadlocked after nearly four days of deliberations, unable to decide if the winning ticket properly belonged to a Falmouth retiree who sued to claim the prize.
Julie Prive has been collecting winnings on the ticket since 2002. Lottery officials say they will keep paying unless a court rules otherwise.
"I just hope we don't have to go through another long two years again," Prive said outside the courthouse. "The jury did their job. They did the best they could. It is a tough case."
Prive had regularly collected discarded tickets and entered them in the lottery's second-chance game designed to prdvent litter. While double-checking the used tickets, she said she found a winner worth $4 million.
But Raymond MacDonald and Monica Hertz claim the winning ticket -- No. 93 in the book of $10 tickets -- was among the 45 tickets they bought that day, May 17.
"It's something that you have to do when you know that you bought the ticket," MacDonald said. "You've just got to go through with it."
MacDonald, a retiree from Falmouth, testified that he plays the lottery two or three times a day, spending upward of $100. He won a $2 million jackpot from a scratch ticket in 1997.
MacDonald and his lawyer, Leigh-Ann Patterson, plan to announce today whether they would seek a new trial.
Before the sides left the courtroom, Judge John Connor urged them to reach a settlement.
"I hope that it sends a signal to all the litigants in this case that they should stand back and see whether or not they can resolve this case before it comes to another jury," Connor said.
MacDonald has a distinctive "scratch signature" that would make it possible to show he once had held the ticket, his lawyers said.
Attorneys for Julie Prive and her husband, David, said ownership of the ticket is not clear cut.
Although the Prives told the lottery commission that Julie had found the ticket, she told a Cape Cod Times reporter at the time that she bought the ticket after she got off work.
MacDonald and Hertz have tried to stop the Prives from collecting their winnings -- $200,000 a year for 20 years before taxes. So far, the Prives have been paid $600,000, before taxes.