Superior Court Judge Qullian Baldwin declared a mistrial in the case against Kevin James Simon Jr. of Newnan and Renordo McKiver of Atlanta, after jurors deliberated into the night and remained hung on all three charges.
“There is no point for further deliberation,” jurors said in their last note to the judge.
Simon and McKiver are charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a handgun in the commission of a crime in the April 29 shooting death of Ronald Rashun “Ray Ray” Cameron, 24, at the American Legion Hall in Hogansville.
“As much as I hate to do it, I’m declaring a mistrial in this case,” Baldwin said.
The ruling was the climax of what had been a tense few days in Superior Court as security at the Troup County Government Center remained on high alert. Spectators for each “side” in the case had gotten into a fight Tuesday that resulted in several arrests for disorderly conduct. Since the incident, the halls of the government center and courtroom were lined with deputies, some wearing Kevlar, and Georgia State Patrol officers to keep the peace. LaGrange police officers numbering more than a dozen surrounded the outside of the building throughout the day and night and a K9 dog was spotted on the scene.
It also was apparently tense in the jury room, as jurors sent a note to Baldwin declaring themselves hung about 3:15 p.m.
“This is a good group,” Baldwin told them. “I’m going to have to ask you to go back and try. You’re as good of a jury as we can get on a case like this, and we need to resolve it one way or the other.”
Jurors reported their “counts” on the charges were 11-1, 9-3 and 9-3 although Baldwin told the forewoman not to report which count went with which charge.
Shortly after that note, jurors sent another message asking to see video shot that night at the Legion during a rap concert. The shooting occurred after the concert was over.
At 4:20 p.m., jurors sent another note declaring themselves “hopelessly deadlocked” and Baldwin said he was going to declare a mistrial.
Both the state and defense objected, saying “considerable resources” had been spent on the trial and jurors had only been deliberating for five to six hours at that point.
The judge instead read the jury the “Allen charge,” which instructs jurors to go back and try again after they’ve been deliberating for a period of time.
“I suspect they will not change their position,” Baldwin said. “To me, all we’re doing is making them suffer through this.”
At 6 p.m. Baldwin sent jurors a note asking what their status was, if they wanted to deliberate Thursday night or come back in the morning. That’s when the court learned that at least three of the jurors had travel plans and two had plane reservations for this morning.
Baldwin said the court could technically replace two of the jurors with alternates, but both the state and defense argued again that the alternate jurors may have been “tainted” earlier in the day. The two had been called in along with the 12 deliberating jurors, getting in the courtroom before other jurors were brought in. They heard Baldwin and the lawyers discussing the expense and resources that were being used on the case.
After more notes passed between the jurors and the judge, the decision was made to keep the original 12 deliberating Thursday night in hopes of coming to a verdict.
“I realize you’re doing your best to try and resolve this,” he said. “The only alternative we have is to keep you in there. We can’t use the alternates, which is sort of my fault.”
After 9 p.m., the judge asked the jury again what the “counts” were on the charges. Jurors were still deadlocked, but one of the counts was back to 11-1. Baldwin asked them to go back and try and resolve that one charge.
While the jurors were out, he and the lawyers began discussing when the second trial would be held and defense lawyers asked that their clients be bonded out of jail in the meantime.
Graylin Ward, Simon’s lawyer, then moved for a mistrial, saying he believed asking jurors to resolve the one charge would put undue pressure on a single juror.
“Your motion, for the time being, is denied,” Baldwin said.
Shortly after that, Baldwin received his last note from the jury.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.
Baldwin then declared a mistrial.
Baldwin said he would be willing to talk about bond for the defendants next week when all the lawyers could get together again to discuss it.
“My mind is too blown to talk about bond tonight,” he said.