Mistrial declared in retrial after jurors again unable to reach a decision in felony murder case
For the second time, jurors in a felony murder case against Dustin D. Walker could not reach an agreement after hours of deliberation.
Douglas County District Judge Paula Martin declared a mistrial Friday in Walker’s retrial in the shooting death of Patrick Roberts, 39, of Lawrence. Martin did so after the jury foreman told the court that “people are pretty much set” in their differing opinions of what happened during the early morning hours of March 8, 2014.
Walker, 31, was already convicted of an aggravated burglary charge at his first trial in February, but those jurors could not agree on the felony murder charge. Jurors in his retrial for the felony murder charge were not allowed to hear about the disposition of the first trial.
Assistant Douglas County District Attorneys Amy McGowan and Deborah Moody alleged that Walker and co-defendant Archie Robinson kicked the door into Roberts’ home around 3 a.m. on March 8, 2014, pointed a handgun at Roberts’ son and entered Roberts’ bedroom to steal cash or marijuana. Walker then allegedly shot Roberts during the crime.
But defense attorney Blake Glover argues that Walker and Robinson did not break into the apartment but went there to buy marijuana from Roberts, thus nullifying the felony murder charge’s underlying felony of aggravated burglary. Aggravated burglary is when one forces his way into a home without permission while armed, but if Walker and Robinson were welcomed to the home to purchase marijuana, it would not be an aggravated burglary.
As jurors deliberated, they asked the court to hear a read-back of testimony that Roberts’ son, Michael Neis-Roberts, 18, made at the retrial this week compared with his initial statements to police the day his father died about whether a gun was drawn during the defendants’ entry into the home.
At Walker’s retrial, Neis-Roberts testified that he witnessed two men — Walker and his co-defendant, Archie Robinson — kick at the door, then enter, one of them pointing a gun at him. During his police interview, the court reporter said, there was no testimony from Neis-Roberts relating to someone coming in with a gun.
It took jurors on Friday about five and a half hours of deliberations to decide they could not reach a unanimous decision. It took the jurors in Walker’s first trial 12 hours to reach their partial decision.
In March, the jury in the case of Walker’s co-defendant, Robinson, took just one hour to convict him of both aggravated burglary and felony murder. Robinson, Walker’s cousin, was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 20 years.
Counting his first and second mistrials in the Roberts’ case, Friday marked the fourth time Walker has not been convicted in a case involving a shooting. Another jury acquitted him in 2011 on charges connected to his alleged role in a December 2010 shooting at South Pointe Apartments, 2310 W. 26th St. In that case Walker was charged with attempted second-degree murder and possessing a firearm as a felon after Darrick Dew was shot during a large party at an apartment.
In 2008, Walker was suspected in a robbery at a Lawrence apartment that resulted in a man being shot in the leg. But in 2011, Douglas County prosecutors dismissed the case before it went to trial. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said afterward that both the victim and witness were unable to recall the incident, precluding prosecutors from pursuing the case.
Martin, the judge, is giving prosecutors a little more than a week to decide whether they want to pursue another retrial for Walker. Prosecutors will announced their decision at a hearing Dec. 2.
Walker remains in the Douglas County Jail. Robinson is currently serving his sentence in Ellsworth Correctional Facility, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Walker has yet to be sentenced for his aggravated burglary conviction.