Over three days of deliberations, the jury contemplating the fate of a Brooklyn Park man accused of fatally shooting an acquaintance and stuffing him into a car trunk didn't fret over a key piece of missing evidence: a body.
Instead, jurors said yesterday after a county judge declared a hung jury in the murder trial, it was the lack of credibility of some of the state's witnesses. Some of the prosecution's key witnesses in the case against Antonio Moore, 21, lived in a Brooklyn Park rowhouse where drugs were freely sold and used.
It was the second mistrial in the killing of Michael Jay Francis, 21; the first trial in March ended when a judge ruled that a witness made prejudicial statements during testimony.
This time, Moore was convicted after a 2 1/2 -week trial on the lesser charges of first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment against a second man on the scene April 14, 2007, Teiko Tyrone Johnson. Moore will be sentenced for those convictions in August.
Kristin Fleckenstein, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said Moore will go on trial a third time on murder charges: "It is absolutely our intent to retry this case," she said.
One juror said the panel "struggled" over the witnesses. The juror, a 44-year-old Crofton man who declined to give his name, said that at the end of deliberations, only one juror was a holdout on the murder charges. "He didn't believe several of the witnesses. ... He did not give them credibility."
Another juror, a 56-year-old man from Crownsville, said of the absence of a body: "It would have helped, but it wasn't a stumbling block."
Both the prosecutor, Lawrence Caporale, and defense attorney, William M. Davis, declined to comment.
In closing arguments, Caporale stressed that at least two witnesses saw or heard the gunshot from a 9 mm rifle that struck Francis and saw Moore shove the man into the trunk of a stolen silver Toyota Solara in the backyard of a house in the 5100 block of Brookwood Road.
The night before, Moore, of the 3800 block of Third St., who had been staying at the rowhouse with his girlfriend, beat Johnson with the butt of his rifle, demanding that he give him marijuana, prosecutors said.
Francis, known as "New York," tried to fend off the attack. Johnson was able to flee.
Police found the gun three weeks later in a wooded area near the scene of the crime, prosecutors said, and Francis' bloody clothes were found in the abandoned convertible. But his body has never been found.
On Thursday afternoon, the jury sent the judge a note seeking to be dismissed for the day, saying it had reached verdicts on three counts but was "hopelessly deadlocked" on the rest.
Though the prosecutor had pushed yesterday for the jury to deliberate further and the defense attorney lobbied for a complete mistrial, Circuit Judge Michelle D. Jaklitsch ruled to allow the partial verdict because of the "tone of the notes."
"To keep them coming back here would not be justice," she said.