With jury ‘hopelessly deadlocked,’ judge declares mistrial


By Kevin Spradlin

ROCKINGHAM — After nearly three full weeks of jury selection and testimony, nothing has changed in the case against Alexander Ingram.

The 63-year-old Jackson Springs man remains in the custody of the state Department of Corrections. He still faces two charges, first degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

Alexander Ingram

Alexander Ingram

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Richard T. Brown felt he had no choice but to declare a mistrial when the jury foreman, a Rockingham resident for the past five years whose favorite television shows includes National Geography, the History Channel and the Food Network, informed the court for the second time in as many days that a unanimous decision couldn’t be reached after approximately eight hours of time in the jury room deliberating.

Ingram will face a second trial in the death of former Norman General Store owner Michael Leverne Collins Sr. The new trial date could be scheduled as soon as September.

Because the case will be tried a second time, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Layton said she couldn’t comment. Frank Wells, who teamed with Stephen Freedman to defend Ingram, also wouldn’t comment on the case. He did thank the jurors for their “seriousness.”

Wells noted, however, that “a second trial always has different wrinkles.”

The jury of seven men and five women couldn’t seem to distinguish between Ingram and his nephew, Henry Thomas “Pete” Ingram. Both men faced the same charges, both have been confined in prison since the day after Collins was beaten to death with a hammer on Nov. 26, 2012. And both men were there — confirmed through Pete’s testimony and forensic evidence off Alexander’s shoes — the night of the murder.

At 2:17 p.m. the jury handed the bailiff a note for Judge Brown. Brown read it and smiled. Then he called all three attorneys to the bench. After each attorney read it —

Layton: “I’ll be back.”
Wells: “Well … ”
Freedman: No audible comment

This was the first note Brown didn’t immediately read aloud in open court. At 2:21 p.m., Layton left the courtroom while Freedman and Wells took their client to a private meeting room. At 2:26 p.m., Layton returned to the courtroom and conferred with Tonia Collins, Michael Collins’ wife, and other family members. At 2:30 p.m., the defendant and his two attorneys returned to the courtroom.

At 2:31 p.m., Brown read the note to the court and entered its contents into the record. The jury had two questions.

* Could two people be guilty of the crime of robbery with a dangerous weapon if only one person used the weapon, and/or if only one person actually stole something?

* Could two people be guilty of the crime of first degree murder if only one person used the weapon, in this case a hammer, to end another person’s life?

The questions sent attorneys on both sides of the case scurrying for guidance and legal precedent. Layton argued the court should stick to the instructions already given to jurors. Wells, meanwhile, argued that “the answer to the jurors’ question is no.”

Wells’ position was that the prosecuting attorney’s entire theory, which remained consistent from jury selection through closing arguments, indicated Alexander Ingram and only Alexander Ingram was guilty of the crimes of which he was charged.

Freedman, of course, agreed, and reminded the judge that the state’s entire case proceeded on the jury that Alexander Ingram committed all the acts. Absolutely no evidence, he said, was otherwise presented.

Except … except the jurors were told to consider all the evidence, and perhaps they did. By what is believed to have been a 10-2 count, jurors couldn’t seem to get away from the fact that there was a known co-defendant — arguably the state’s star witness, and the only one able to put Alexander Ingram at the scene of the crime and with a hammer in his hand.

But defense attorneys put just enough doubt — reasonable doubt — in at least two jurors’ minds that it might have been Pete Ingram who committed some of, or all of, the crimes. And so Freedman asked Brown to give the jurors this instruction: “that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt this defendant, this defendant alone …”

“I think that’s the only fair way to answer the question” asked by the jury, Freedman said.

Brown asked Layton: Does the state contend that its theory throughout the duration of the trial has been that only Alexander Ingram committed the act of murder and the act of robbery with a dangerous weapon?

“That’s the state’s theory,” Layton said.

Layton never requested the court, and by extension the jury, to consider that Alexander Ingram might have been acting in concert with another person.

“It’s apparent to the court … that in spite of the instructions that have been given thus far … that the jury has questions in its mind” tantamount to wondering about acting in concert, Brown said, which “should not be applied here.”

Brown sided with the defense, and read to the jury what Freedman had written.

“They’re confused,” Layton said of jurors.

At 3:40 p.m., Brown instructed the jurors again, and answered their question by emphasizing that they were to determine whether or not Alexander Ingram committed each of the acts as charged, by himself. That took less than a minute, and jurors returned to the jury room to continue deliberations.

Thirty-seven minutes later, a knock came from the jury room. A note was handed to the judge: “The jury’s still unable to reach a verdict,” Brown read.

Layton said what happened next was to be at the court’s discretion. Freedman asked Brown to declare a mistrial.

* * * 

Tonia Collins and family members left the courtroom quickly. So, too, did jurors, each of whom declined to talk with attorneys from either side or journalists.

Alexander Ingram, meanwhile, remains jailed and awaits a second trial.

Previous coverage
* 4/8: Judge denies jury’s request for copy of ‘long and complicated’ instructions
* 4/7: Jury foreman: Deliberations ‘at an impasse’
* 4/7: Jurors weighing ‘believable evidence’
* 4/6: Defense: Cops ‘just didn’t do their job’
* 4/6: Case against Alexander Ingram goes to jury
* 4/3: Things the jurors will never know
* 4/2: Judge denies defense motion for mistrial
* 4/2: Defense seeks mistrial
* 4/1: Detective: ‘I forgot’ to search co-defendant’s home
* 4/1: Pete Ingram: ‘To clear myself, I’d tell on my momma’
* 3/31: Co-defendant: ‘My uncle killed that man’
* 3/31: Defendant’s nephew: My uncle did it
* 3/30: 911 calls replayed, detectives questioned
* 3/30: Victim’s wife of defendant: ‘He was our friend’
* 3/27: Alternates selected, opening statements set for Monday
* 3/26: Medical emergency delays murder trial
* 3/25: ‘At a particular place at a particular time’
* 3/25: Jury set in murder trial of Norman General Store owner
* 3/25: Prospective juror caught up in gambling ring
* 3/24: Race becomes an issue in jury selection
* 3/24: Defense works from “presumption of innocence”
* 3/23: Jury selection begins in murder trial

Filed in: Ellerbe/Norman, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety, Rockingham

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