Judge Declares Mistrial in British Tourist Slaying Trial
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ For the second time and for the same reason, a jury has deadlocked in the case of a teen-ager accused of killing a British tourist at a highway rest stop.
The jury deliberated seven hours Thursday before telling the judge it was deadlocked on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and attempted armed robbery against John ``Billy Joe″ Crumitie.
The judge, who also had presided over the first trial, declared another mistrial.
Jurors said the panel was split 9-3 in favor of conviction. Gloria Rozier said the determining factor was that prosecutors failed to place Crumitie at the scene.
``I needed more physical evidence _ a hair, a fiber, something,″ she said. ``Nobody put him there for me.″
In Crumitie’s first trial in November, the jury deadlocked 11-1, with the forewoman claiming she couldn’t find Crumitie guilty because of the lack of physical evidence.
The judge dismissed the jurors and ordered Crumitie to remain in custody. State Attorney William Meggs said the state would retry Crumitie a third time.
Crumitie is accused of taking part in a botched robbery that left Gary Colley, 34, dead and his longtime companion, Margaret Jagger, wounded. Colley and Ms. Jagger, 36, had pulled over to the fog-shrouded rest area to take a nap.
The killing was the ninth of a foreigner in a 12-month period and marred Florida’s image as a safe, sunny vacation spot. The case drew international attention, spurred lawmakers to pass new juvenile justice laws and led to the posting of armed guards at all interstate rest areas.
The state’s two primary witnesses were teen-agers who claimed to have been at the rest stop with Crumitie. Both, however, had cut deals for reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony.
Deron Spear, 18, who drove a stolen car away from the scene, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and accessory after the fact and faces up to 10 years in prison.
Aundra Akins, 16, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a maximum sentence of 40 years.
Akins, who did not testify in the first trial, was identified as one of two men who fired guns into Colley’s rental car. Prosecutors claimed the Crumitie, 18, was the other gunman.
Defense attorneys Dwight Wells and Mina Morgan used the same strategy as in the first trial, calling Crumitie as their only witness. He denied being at the rest stop.
``Two juries have not reached a verdict,″ Ms. Morgan said. ``There comes a time when enough hung juries raises a reasonable doubt.″
Crumitie faces up to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years.
Ms. Jagger, who once again testified about the attack, showed no emotion as she held the hand of a victim’s advocate. She later refused comment.