Mistrial declared in Belvidere Street murder trial

By: Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Tears & shock in a Richmond courtroom tonight after a mistrial is declared in the murder case of James Taylor Jr.  Despite his taped confession to police, the jury said it couldn't reach a verdict.

Taylor is accused of firing the stray bullet that killed an Ashland man who was driving along Belvidere Street last summer.

It seems this jury had to wrestle with two different versions of James Taylor Jr. - the tearful teenager seen confessing on a videotaped interrogation and the well-dressed defendant adamantly testifying today, he did not shoot Billy Ennis.

After six hours of deliberation and two days of trial, lawyers will have to try the case again. Tears welled up in the eyes of James Taylor's mother as she exited the courthouse.  Her 18 year old son, the third of eight children will go back to jail.

Defense and commonwealth's attorneys agreed in their closing statements that this case was a tragedy, that Billy Ennis was a victim of circumstance.  Late Wednesday, they again found themselves in similar positions.

"We're obviously disappointed that the jury did not return a not guilty verdict," said Rich Johnson, James Taylor's Defense Attorney.  "Quite frankly, we're kind of disappointed."

This was the second time jurors told the judge they couldn't agree.  She sent them back to deliberate further around 6:15 Wednesday night.  At this point, we do not know how many jurors were leaning toward each side, but defense attorney Rich Johnson is not surprised they couldn't get together.

"I think some of the jurors were able to recognize the innocence, both actually and metaphorically of Mr. Taylor," said Learned Barry, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney.

Taylor was facing five charges including second degree murder and could have been sentenced to almost sixty years in prison.

"This is a dirty business and sometimes you have to get down and dirty with people that are charged with murder," said Barry.

The Commonwealth's Attorney also said he thinks some on the jury may have had trouble convicting such a young defendant of crimes that could put him in prison for most of his life. Even so, Barry thinks second degree murder is the right charge for this crime. We expect a retrial date will be set Thursday.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.