AP NEWS

‘What now?’: Rochester murder trial ends with deadlocked jury

May 8, 2019

ROCHESTER — After about 12 hours of deliberation, a jury in the case of a Rochester man charged with fatally shooting a 17-year-old boy could not agree on a verdict and Judge Joseph Chase declared a mistrial.

The eight women and four men of the jury were handed the case of 26-year-old Alexander Weiss just before 5:30 p.m. Monday after attorneys gave their closing arguments in Olmsted County District Court.

The jury filed into the courtroom at 5:35 p.m. on Tuesday and the judge asked the jury forewoman if they were deadlocked. She said, “yes.” Judge Chase then asked all of the jurors, who nodded in agreement.

“This was not an easy case,” said Chase as he thanked the jury for their time.

Weiss pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in connection with a Jan. 14, 2018, confrontation with Muhammed Rahim. The incident followed a minor automobile crash involving Weiss’ Subaru and the Chevrolet Cavalier Rahim was driving. Weiss did not dispute that he caused Rahim’s death but claims he acted in self-defense.

Attorney James McGeeney, who represented Weiss, said while he is disappointed that his client was not found not guilty, “It was not the worst outcome.”

“I believe the majority of the jurors believed my client was not guilty,” he said standing on the steps of the Olmsted County Courthouse.

In the courtroom, the judge asked the attorneys, “What do we do now?”

They scheduled a review hearing on June 6 for the prosecution to say if they want to pursue another trial or not.

The judge said the case is basically back to where it was before the trial started.

Olmsted County Mark Ostrem, who was in court to support to Chief Deputy Olmsted County Attorney Eric Woodford, said afterward that Woodford and his team will now go back and evaluate how the trial went to decide what to do next. Woodford was not available for comment.

“We obviously felt pretty strongly about the case,” Ostrem said.

Jury deliberations resumed today just after 9 a.m. Around 2:25 p.m. today, the jury sent a note to the court. An hour later, the jury was brought back into the courtroom and their note was summarized by Judge Chase, who told those in the court audience that the jury members felt they had reached an impasse.

Chase told the jurors that a “jury need not reach a verdict. Deadlock, a hung jury, is a legitimate end,” but said he did not feel as though the jury has reached that point yet.

“I am not willing to give up on a possibility of a verdict,” Chase said. The jury was sent back to resume their deliberations around 3:25 p.m.

Minutes after being sent back to deliberate, jurors sent out another question and were brought back in. The jury had sent a request to review two pieces of video introduced as exhibits in the case.

The first piece they reviewed was a video taken from a surveillance camera that was on a residential garage from a house on 31st Street Northeast that faced south toward the Olympik Village apartments. While it did not capture the confrontation and shooting, it showed Weiss’ vehicle on 31st Street Northeast as well as the vehicle of another witness who testified Wednesday. The video also captured audio of the gunshot, yelling from the scene and the arrival of law enforcement.

The second piece of video was surveillance footage from a camera on The Square on 31st apartment building, which captured the incident from about 100 yards away. The distance, the quality of the camera, steam from a nearby vent and the videos date and time stamp made it difficult to see what was going on that January morning.

The jury was sent back to deliberate at 4:22 p.m.

During the course of the trial, which began last Tuesday with opening statements from prosecutor Woodford and defense attorney McGeeney, jurors heard from Weiss himself, three of Rahim’s passengers, a woman who drove by and witnessed the shooting and nearly a dozen Rochester police officers.

Also testifying were the medical examiner with the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office and a forensic scientist with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The jury was sequestered Monday night.

In his opening and closing remarks, Woodford argued that Weiss made an unnecessary and unreasonable choice when he shot and killed Rahim. Woodford also told the jury that Weiss had options to retreat and failed to do so.

Minnesota is not a Stand Your Ground state and the state’s self-defense statute requires a person to retreat.

“This isn’t just words on a paper ... he has a duty to retreat, to avoid the danger, so we don’t end up with dead 17-year-olds on the pavement,” Woodford said.

During his final statements, McGeeney told jury members that their decision may well be the hardest thing they will ever do — finding a man not guilty who has taken another man’s life.

“I ask you to find him not guilty, because he is not guilty. The evidence supports that,” McGeeney said Monday afternoon. “Mr. Rahim’s death is unfortunate and probably unnecessary but not because of the actions and behaviors of Mr. Weiss.”