UPDATED: Judge declares mistrial in Justin Patterson murder trial; jury was deadlocked after over 7 hours of deliberation
FRANKLIN — A district judge declared a mistrial late Friday night in the murder trial of Justin Edward Patterson for the May 2013 shooting death of Mikki Jay Dauntain in Morgan City. The jury deadlocked after over seven hours of deliberations.
The nine-woman, three-man jury was unable to reach agreement on a verdict in Patterson’s second-degree murder trial. At least 10 of the 12 jurors had to agree on a verdict but couldn’t do so.
Prosecutor Anthony Saleme said Sunday night that he had no comment on whether he plans to bring Patterson’s case to trial again.
Patterson, 28, was also on trial for the charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Second-degree murder is defined as the killing of a person with specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm on the person. It carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
The jury was also given the option to find Patterson guilty of the lesser charges of manslaughter or negligent homicide.
At about 11 p.m. Friday, District Judge Lewis Pitman declared a mistrial in the case. He polled jurors privately and sealed the record so that only the prosecutor and defense attorney could see the results.
The trial began Tuesday morning, and the jury went into deliberations at about 2:40 p.m. Friday. Jurors deliberated until about 7:30 p.m., when they got an hour break, and then the judge requested that they keep deliberating.
Patterson allegedly intended to kill Brandon Scott on the night of May 20, 2013, in the area of Federal Avenue and Garber Street, but inadvertently shot and killed Dauntain, 23.
Witnesses who knew Patterson testified for the prosecution, saying that Patterson wanted to get revenge for an April 2013 robbery in the city of Patterson in which he and his girlfriend, Ashley Rudolph, were victims.
Saleme said that the jury should find Patterson guilty of second-degree murder through “transferred intent.” Even though Patterson didn’t mean to kill Dauntain, he intended to kill Scott and the intent should, therefore, be applied to Dauntain’s death, Saleme said.
Rudolph was among the witnesses who testified that she and Patterson believed Scott was involved in the robbery but was never arrested in connection with it.
Saleme put two alleged eyewitnesses to the shooting on the stand: Dauntain’s girlfriend, Natasha Garner, who was with Dauntain during the shooting, and Alanni Clark, who said she witnessed the shooting from across the street. Both Garner and Clark identified Patterson as the shooter.
Patterson’s attorney, Suzanne deMahy, said investigators focused on Patterson as the sole suspect in the case because Garner identified him as the shooter. Police failed to investigate anyone else who could have been involved, deMahy said.
Morgan City Police Sgt. Richard Briscoe testified that Garner approached him when he arrived on the scene of the shooting trying to get information on what had transpired. Garner almost immediately identified Patterson as the shooter, Briscoe said.
DeMahy asked how anyone could identify the shooter because the shooter allegedly wore a mask. Garner said she could tell the shooter was Patterson by his dreadlocks and the top part of his face that was exposed.
DeMahy said investigators didn’t look at Garner’s second boyfriend at the time, Michael Francois, whom she was allegedly dating at the same time as Dauntain, deMahy said.
And police also didn’t look at Clark’s cousin, Dequante Wesley, who was alleged to have been at the scene, deMahy said. But Clark testified that Wesley left the area 25-30 minutes before the shooting occurred.
Clark was the last witness to testify after the prosecution was able to locate her Thursday morning in South Carolina, and Morgan City police returned with her on a flight that night so she could testify for the prosecution Friday morning.
Morgan City police first responded to a report of the shooting just after 11 p.m. May 20, 2013.
Scott, Dauntain and Dauntain’s girlfriend, Garner, had been in the same car when the shooting occurred. Garner, who was driving, allegedly stopped the car after being flagged down by several women.
Scott got into a fight with Patterson’s sister, Jessicah Johnson, and she shattered the car window to try to get to Scott inside, according to witnesses.
Patterson was alleged to have been nearby and went and shot Dauntain, who had gotten out of the car, during the encounter, despite intending to shoot Scott, the prosecutor stated.
Johnson, 24, was indicted by a grand jury on the charges of second-degree murder and criminal damage to property. Her case is still open.
In closing statements, deMahy said that inconsistencies in different witness’ versions of the same events, provides “reasonable doubt,” and the jury should find Patterson not guilty.
DeMahy said Rudolph couldn’t get the details of her story straight because she wasn’t telling the truth. Rudolph said she had seen Patterson wearing either a dark or camouflage jacket before the shooting.
DeMahy pointed to what she said were inconsistencies in Rudolph’s story with that of her mother, Linda Mejia, formerly Linda Madise, and father, Patrick Madise, about the alleged concealment of the shooting.
Rudolph said she found the clothes Patterson had been wearing the night of the shooting on the floor of her home after he got home next to a gun she’d never seen. Rudolph stated that she and Patrick Madise had gone to pick up Patterson after Patterson called back the night of the shooting asking her to pick him up.
Mejia testified she had gone with Rudolph and Rudolph’s friend, Lyndsey Guidry, to the horse arena in Morgan City several days after the shooting and burned a bag of clothes Rudolph had told her were Patterson’s.
Rudolph testified that she was panicking about finding the gun, too, and briefly after she found it, she went with Guidry and her sister, Tori Madise, to the La. 182 bridge in Morgan City where Guidry threw the gun off of the bridge.
Rudolph has already pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice involving possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. But Rudolph has yet to be sentenced on the charge and agreed to testify at Patterson’s trial as part of her plea agreement.
Therefore, Rudolph had something to gain or lose, deMahy said, through her testimony during Patterson’s trial.
The defense didn’t call any witnesses, and Patterson chose not to testify in his own defense.