Deadlocked: Mistrial declared in murder trial
After listening to five days of testimony and deliberating for 13 hours, the jury in the murder trial of Alvin Lee "Butch" Morris today remained evenly divided 6-6 about his guilt in the 1988 murder of Roger Lee Shifflett, and Judge Cheryl Higgins recused them and thanked them for seven long days of service in Albemarle Circuit Court.
"The jury is firmly deadlocked," they wrote in a note to the judge that she read in court at 12:45pm. "We have agreed we feel further deliberations will not change the situation."
It's now up to Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford whether she'll retry the 21-year-old case. "I have not decided what to do, and will talk to the family," she said.
Morris, his wife Barbara, who is the widow of the slain man, and their family and friends left after the mistrial through a side door.
The Shifflett family seemed more upbeat today than last night, when they learned a mistrial was possible, but they declined to comment as they exited the courthouse.
"Obviously everybody was pleased," said defense attorney Dana Slater, speaking for her client. "We were hoping for a not-guilty verdict, but a deadlocked jury was not unexpected."
Nita Irvine, a longtime friend and coworker of Barbara Morris at Stone-Robinson Elementary, was present the entire seven days of the trial. "Both Butch and Barbara, their faith is strong," she said. "They're confident the Lord's working."
And if there is another trial, Irvine vows to be there.