A jury Tuesday cleared a former group-home worker of most of the abuse charges against him and failed to agree on a verdict on the remaining counts.
Jurors deliberated four hours in District Court before finding Dustin D. Taylor, 21, not guilty of six counts and reaching a "hung jury" on the remaining two counts. It's not yet known whether prosecutors will seek to try him again for the charges on which jurors couldn't agree.
Taylor was one of two men charged with abusing a mentally disabled man last summer at Ponderosa House, a group home operated by Community Living Opportunities.
"We thought all along that the state didn't have a strong case and that his conduct was not worthy of charges," said Paul Davis, Taylor's attorney. "What happened really was an employee that was trying to do a difficult job and doing the best he could under some difficult circumstances."
Prosecutors alleged Taylor abused the 57-year-old man in two separate incidents last summer.
¢ Jurors found Taylor not guilty of all charges related to a June 17, 2005, incident in which prosecutors alleged he failed to use a "gait belt" to lift the man off the ground. Taylor testified he wasn't trained to use the belt.
¢ Jurors found Taylor not guilty of two charges related to a June 28, 2005, incident in which he allegedly lifted the man from a chair by his armpits and squeezed his cheeks together. They failed to reach a verdict on two of the counts related to that incident.
Davis said he simply didn't believe the facts of the case fit the criminal laws Taylor was charged with breaking. The laws speak to intentionally inflicting injury, depriving needed care, confining a person unreasonably or touching someone in a "rude, insulting or angry" manner.
"Some actions we may deem as somewhat inappropriate, but they are not criminal," Davis said. "His position required him to have a great deal of physical contact with this resident."
Even though there were only two incidents, jurors had eight total charges to consider. In each incident, they could have found him guilty of one of four things: battery, or one of three kinds of "mistreatment of a dependent adult."
Paul Davis, attorney for Dustin D. Taylor, reacts to the jury verdict
The case was prosecuted by the Kansas Attorney General's Office. Because of the way the charges were structured, there could be double-jeopardy concerns that prevent Taylor from being tried again for the charges on which jurors couldn't agree.
Judge Michael Malone asked Deputy Atty. Gen. Rex Beasley whether his office wanted to try the case again, assuming it legally could.
"I'm not in a position to answer that," Beasley said.
Another man, Eric S. Wyatt, 34, is scheduled to stand trial later this summer for charges related to the same resident.