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Judge overturns murder conviction for man found guilty of killing Chesterfield teen

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - A man convicted by a jury of second-degree murder for the shooting death of Bryson Mitchell in 2019 could be walking out of jail soon.

On July 8, Judge David Johnson with the Twelfth Judicial Circuit granted a motion to set aside three guilty verdicts, handed down by a jury, for Demetrius Roots. In the ruling, the judge says, “Beyond establishing the fact, the Commonwealth’s evidence, in the face of the presumption of innocence, is legally insufficient to prove more than a strong suspicion that the Defendant shot and killed Mr. Mitchell.”

In a press conference Tuesday, Chesterfield County Police Chief Col. Jeffrey S. Katz grew emotional about the decision.

“I am outraged, disgusted, and angered at this decision,” he said.” A woman lost her son because he was murdered. Compelling evidence happens to place two defendants at the scene. The co-defendant can’t be charged because the initial defendant has been acquitted.”

Mitchell was found unconscious with a gunshot wound inside a car on Sept. 26, 2019. Nearly a year after his death, Roots and Samira Taraby-Whitfield were arrested in connection to the crime.

In April, the jury found Roots guilty of second-degree murder, use of a firearm while committing murder and malicious shooting into an occupied vehicle.

“A judge has the authority to do what the judge did,” Katz said. “It’s a very rarely, if ever, used power, but it was exercised in this particular instance.”

Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Stacey Davenport says this ruling prevents Roots from being convicted of the crime again.

“He will be released. A free man with no recourse left for Bryson’s family or this community,” Davenport said. “Never before have I seen a judge completely set aside a jury’s guilty verdict and acquit a defendant without allowing our appellate courts the opportunity to fully review the case and to do so, sets a very dangerous precedent.”

Davenport believes the jury’s verdict should be protected.

“To begin to undermine the validity and sanctity of a jury’s verdict is to begin slowly eroding the American judicial system as we know it,” she said.

Katz agrees and hopes this ruling will spark more community involvement.

“From members of the grand jury, the eight that indicted, and the 12 that convicted, members of our community have a say in the justice in our community,” he said.

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