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Hung jury in Menchville High School murder trial; judge declares mistrial


A Newport News jury on Wednesday failed to achieve a verdict in the slaying of a 17-year-old pupil, who was shot throughout a battle exterior Menchville High School after a basketball recreation late final yr.

Newport News Circuit Court Judge Bryant L. Sugg declared a mistrial after jurors couldn’t unanimously agree on whether or not to seek out Demari Antonio Batten responsible of second-degree murder or manslaughter — or discover him not responsible in any respect — following a full day of deliberations.

The breakdown of what number of jurors favored every alternative wasn’t clear, although Batten’s legal professional stated the jury’s discovering on a separate depend makes clear their disagreement was between manslaughter and acquittal in the murder.

Newport News prosecutors now should determine whether or not to re-try Batten in the Dec. 14 slaying of 17-year-old Justice Michael Dunham. Prosecutors haven’t introduced their plans, and no new trial date has been set.

Dunham, a standout soccer participant at Woodside High School, was shot to loss of life close to a parked automotive as followers cleared out after the packed recreation between Menchville and Woodside.

Batten’s legal professional, James Broccoletti, made a self-defense case, with Batten testifying he shot Dunham as he was being attacked and whereas Dunham and one other pupil have been making an attempt to seize his gun.

“I wanted them to back off of me and get away and to leave me alone,” Batten testified Tuesday.

While the jury failed to achieve a verdict on the murder cost, jurors discovered Batten responsible on three different fees — possessing a firearm on college property, capturing a firearm on college property, and possessing a handgun with a capability of greater than 20 rounds. Those fees will transfer ahead to sentencing in January.

But jurors discovered Batten not responsible of one other gun cost, utilizing a firearm in the fee of second-degree murder.

Broccoletti contended the acquittal on that cost indicated jurors agreed to seek out Batten not responsible of second-degree murder in the murder case — and have been solely making an attempt to determine between manslaughter and never responsible.

That created about 45 minutes of authorized wrangling following the decision on what to do.

Broccoletti wished jurors polled “to resolve this matter once and for all.” If that was certainly their level of disagreement, Broccoletti argued Sugg wanted to toss the second-degree murder cost and bar the prosecution from ever bringing it again.

But Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Titter asserted that polling the jurors can be improper beneath the courtroom’s guidelines.

“They are not allowed to explain things to us,” she stated of jurors. “We are not to know what goes on back there.”

In the top, Sugg solely requested the jury’s foreman in the event that they “considered all three options,” and the foreman stated sure. That means prosecutors can carry again the second-degree murder depend in the event that they so select.

During closing arguments in the case Tuesday, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Mary Button stated Batten overreacted after the Dec. 14 basketball recreation and “brought a gun to a fistfight.”

“He retreats to where the gun is,” Button stated. “He aims the gun, and he shoots the gun. Those were all his choices … If they were going to beat him so severely, why would they do it in a packed parking lot with police and other people around.”

Broccoletti, for his half, asserted at trial that Dunham and his mates have been attacking Batten, and he had nowhere else to go.

“What did they want him to do, stand there and take an a** whooping?” Broccoletti requested. “He’s trapped like a rat with nowhere to go and acted reasonably under the circumstances.”

As for the argument that Batten “brought a gun to a fistfight,” Broccoletti stated Batten solely “brought a gun to a parking lot,” and “they brought the fight to where the weapon was.”

Batten testified Tuesday he “thought it was going to be a fun night” when he went with a good friend to the basketball recreation. But throughout the first half, he stated, he received an ominous textual content message from a good friend that one other group of scholars have been watching his each transfer.

Text messages launched on the trial confirmed {that a} group of scholars — together with Dunham — was mad at Batten about an Instagram story submit he made that they interpreted as mocking of their gang, the Playboy Bunnies. Batten had posted a video with an upside-down bunny.

“We really about to do his a** tomorrow,” Dunham texted one other pupil the evening earlier than, with texts and testimony additionally indicating the group was watching Batten’s actions on the recreation.

Batten stated to get away from any hazard on the recreation, he walked to his good friend’s parked automotive. There he had a gun — a Glock 9 mm with an prolonged journal and 22 rounds — on the floorboard and illegally on college property.

As he waited exterior the automotive, Kaveon Eley, one of many college students who had a beef with Batten, approached. Batten stated he tried to get rapidly into the sedan and shut the door, however Eley held it open and punched him as soon as in the face. Then, he testified that Eley reached over him and tried to seize his gun.

Batten stated he picked up the gun, tried to dam Eley along with his physique and pointed the weapon towards the empty driver’s facet. Just then, he stated, a pupil in a ski masks — later recognized as Dunham — opened the driving force’s facet door. Batten stated Dunham leaned into the automotive and tried to seize on the gun. Batten stated he fired one spherical and shot Dunham as soon as in the chest.

Police arrested Batten on the scene. Under questioning from detectives, Batten at first denied the gun was his, earlier than later admitting to he purchased it “on the street” two months earlier. He then informed detectives he was “wrestling” with Dunham and Eley over the gun when “the gun went off” — earlier than later acknowledging that they by no means received their fingers on it.

Peter Dujardin, 757-897-2062, [email protected]


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