BARBOUR COUNTY, AL (WTVM) – A 12-member jury deadlocked on reaching a verdict in the Willie Dickerson murder case following six hours of deliberating. The case went to the jury on Monday just after 3 p.m.
They went home for the evening at the end of business and returned Tuesday morning to continue sorting out the facts and evidence in the case. Three hours later, the judge announced that the jurors could not come to a decision.
According to Barbour County District Attorney Ben Reeves, they were split by half and half. The mostly African American jury consisted of more women than men.
"It's disappointing because we tried this case for a guilty verdict and that's exactly what we were looking forward to today is getting a guilty verdict. But we'll tee it up again hopefully when the judge sets us a date, present our case even stronger and harder and get a guilty verdict," stated Reeves.
The defense led by Attorney Jay Taylor switched gears and decided not to call a single witness to the stand as he rested his case. He had dozens of witnesses at the courthouse who'd planned to testify in the case. Taylor released this statement to the media:
"Mr. Dickerson and his legal team would like to thank the jurors for their diligence in deliberating this case and attempting to reach a verdict. We are obviously disappointed they were unable to return a not guilty verdict which we feel was supported by the evidence. The state did not meet its burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, we are elated to be proceeding forward with a non-capital charge of murder and feel that upon a retrial, a verdict of not guilty will be returned by the newly empanelled jury in this matter; hopefully some time later this year. We would lastly commend the court for its handling of this case which made for a smoother trial process allowing the jury to focus on the evidence. Mr. Dickerson, who has been held without bond for three years now, has an $80,000.00 bond and hopefully will be released pending trial."
Dickerson is accused of killing Willie Pugh in January 2012. The prosecution claimed its strongest part of the case was DNA evidence during testimony.
An expert from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences testified about DNA results of several items in a black trash bag found in Dickerson's charred bedroom of his mobile.
A bloodied bath towel and blood on the outside of Pugh's tennis shoe had his blood and DNA on it. Also other items of Pugh's had DNA from two unidentified people.
Dickerson's jeans, sweat pants and a socks were found with his blood on it. There's also Dickerson's burned mobile home that belonged to his mother and the jailhouse recorded phone conversations between Dickerson and family presented as evidence.
Dickerson is heard telling his mother that authorities are trying to get him to confess to a crime that he didn't commit.
In another phone call, Dickerson told his sister,"You know what Rodney did, I need you to do the same thing to where I just came from. Don't say it because the calls are recorded. But, you have to do it completely, because if you don't, ya'll ain't going to never see me again."
Eight minutes after that phone call, the mobile on located in Doster, Alabama burned down.
The state says those statements from Dickerson were admissions of guilt and a way to cover up evidence. On the other hand, the defense suggested his client wanted the home burned down to get insurance money to pay for his legal fees because he knew he was being framed for Pugh's death.
Pugh's body was found on Sutton Dairy road in a wooded area. The remains were wrapped in a blue blanket using duct tape and a black trash bag covered his face. He died from a sharp cut to the neck, severing a major artery.
The medical examiner testified he could not determine what type of instruments were used in the stabbing, just a sharp edged object.
Dickerson was transported back to Montgomery shortly after the mistrial was declared and issued an $80,000 bond.
"I feel bad for the victim's family," Dickerson stated when leaving the courtroom Tuesday.