Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jury Deadlocks; Gray Will Be Tried Again

The jury deadlocked in the case of Angela Gray, 40, of Muldrow Thursday. District Judge Jeff Payton announced the deadlock at 6:30 p.m. after eight and a half hours of deliberation by the six-man, six-woman jury.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Ashworth said he will retry the case.

One juror stated that one of the main items that the members were unable to agree on was regarding who was driving the ATV at the time of the accident. The jurors were asked by Judge Payton if there was any possibility that further deliberation could lead to an unanimous decision. Each juror responded that there was no possibility of this occurring. 

Gray was charged with failure to stop at an accident resulting in non-fatal injury, a felony, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of minors. She was found not guilty on that count. A third count of selling or furnishing alcoholic beverages to minors was not to be considered by the jury, Judge Payton said.

The felony count was prompted by an ATV crash on Sept. 1, 2013, when Christian Mayberry, 16 at that time, received a traumatic brain injury. Gray said Mayberry was driving the ATV. Mayberry testified that Gray was driving the ATV.

Another jury docket is scheduled for September, but Judge Payton said it may be hard for the district attorney's office to be ready to retry the case by that time.

Kim Mayberry, Christian's mother who has fought for his recovery and for justice for her son, said after the deadlock was announced, "As a family we are disappointed today. It's been a long two years. We had hoped to put an end to it today but the family is ready to continue on."

The attorneys for both sides launched into fiery closing arguments on Thursday morning.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Ashworth reviewed the timeline and witnesses testimony that Gray was seen driving the ATV with Mayberry as a passenger.

Defense attorney Gary Buckles of Poteau pointed out that the state had the burden of proof, but left out vital information, and he questioned how Mayberry's cell phone was used several times after the crash of the ATV.

Ashworth, returning to his opening argument theme, told the jury the accident and Mayberry's injury, "...was too high a price. He paid it. Christian Mayberry paid the price for a 38-year-old woman to hang out with teenage boys."

Ashworth pointed out the bartender at the VFW was closing before 8 p.m. on the night of Sept. 1, 2013, when she testified two men and two women (Gerald and Rachel Griffin, Gray and Mayberry) stopped at the VFW where the man (Griffin) wanted to buy beer and cigarettes, which she refused to sell since she was closing.

Ashworth reminded jurors that a friend of Mayberry's, Cade Matthews, testified he saw Mayberry and Gray at Curt's convenience store between 8:30 and 9 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2013, and that Gray was driving the ATV. Matthews testified he did not see Gray's friends, the Griffins, at the store, as the Griffins had testified.

Ashworth reviewed the testimony of former friends of Grays who said they had spoken to her allegedly immediately after the accident and she did not speak about Mayberry being injured, but said she wanted to call her son, Joey Gray, who had been in an accident.

Ashworth pointed out that although Gray testified her cell phone was damaged in the accident, and the cell phones of Joey Gray and Kyle Brannon would not connect in the bottoms south of Muldrow where the  crash took place, phone records indicated 50 phone calls were made from those three cell phones between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight on Sept. 1, 2013.

Mayberry, Ashworth pointed out, testified Gray was driving the ATV and that she was going too fast. Mayberry testified that while he lay injured on the ground he heard Gray say, "We have to get the (bleep) out of here."

In her statements, Gray said Mayberry hit his head on the top of the ATV, but his brain injury was on the right lower quadrant of his skull, Ashworth said when pointing out inconsistencies in Gray's testimony. He also pointed out two "slips" made in Gray's testimony when she said Mayberry had lain in the ditch "three hours." And also when she stated, "He couldn't have heard our conversation."

Ashworth asked the jury to consider, "All the tangles and webs of deceits" in the conflicting testimonies.

He concluded, "She was the only adult there, yet she made the most juvenile of choices. Christian Mayberry will have to live with that choice the rest of his life."

Buckles immediately attacked Ashworth's closing remarks and accused the prosecution of character assassination in Gray's case.

He told the jury it was up to the prosecution to prove Gray behaved in a willful or malicious manner, which the prosecution had not done. He argued that although Ashworth called Gray a "cool mom" who wanted to hang out with teenage boys, he presented no evidence to support that claim.

Buckles questioned the use of Mayberry's cell phone, which was used to make calls even after the crash. Buckles pointed out the prosecution did not produce the records for Mayberry's cell phone, and added he did not even know where the cell phone was until the OHP trooper who investigated the crash testified Wednesday that he had the cell phone.

"Where is the evidence from Christian Mayberry's phone?" Buckles asked.

Buckles argued that a prosecution witness, Taben Morris, admitted she lied in statements made to investigators, and the prosecution's own witnesses who saw Gray immediately after the crash described her as "frantic" and "upset."

He pointed out that the bartender at the VFW saw Gray with her friends, the Griffins, and Mayberry. They then went on to Curt's store for beer and cigarettes. "They were together at the VFW but not at Curt's," he explained.

Buckles concluded by asking the jury to not compound one tragedy (Mayberry's injury) with another (finding Gray guilty).

After a long week where friends, family and supporters of Christian Mayberry spent hours in the courtroom anxiously waiting to hear the verdict, this phase of the story has come to a close. However, family and prosecutors both have vowed to continue to fight for "Justice for Mayberry," the motto that they have been clinging to.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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