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TOLEDO | After roughly 25 hours of deliberation, jurors Friday could not reach a unanimous decision on whether Dustin Jefferson committed first-degree murder by helping kill his wife, Kerry O'Clair Jefferson.

The panel -- eight women and four men -- split 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdict, according to the foreman, Richard Griffin. He said he was the lone holdout for not guilty.

"Being the nonguilty, I do not feel the state had met the burden of reasonable doubt that Dustin aided and abetted the crime," Griffin said after being released from service.

Authorities tried to prove Jefferson, 40, actively assisted or knowingly encouraged his mother, Ginger Jefferson, 59, to kill his wife. A separate jury in May 2014 convicted Ginger Jefferson of first-degree murder, and she is serving a life sentence.

O'Clair Jefferson, 32, died Sept. 25, 2013, stabbed twice in the neck. She bled to death on a hardwood floor in a house at 104 Harmon St. in Tama where she sometimes stayed with her estranged husband.

Griffin said he could concede Jefferson likely had motive, opportunity and intent. But jurors "got severely hung up" on specific actions.

"What did he actually do?" Griffin added. "People felt the prosecution failed to show what Dustin actually did."

Jurors began deliberations about noon Tuesday. According to Griffin, they took a vote early on, which came back seven guilty, four not guilty and one undecided. By Thursday afternoon, the vote shifted to 11 to 1, guilty.

"A classic hung jury," Griffin said.

Jurors also spent time discussing Saharra Martinez' role, according to Griffin.

She is Jefferson's sister and had spent most of the Sept. 25, 2013, drinking with O'Clair Jefferson, Dustin Jefferson and Ginger Jefferson. In the afternoon, Dustin, Ginger and Martinez went for a drive in rural Tama County. An officer later picked up Martinez, who was walking along the side of a road.

Jurors, according to Griffin, wondered why prosecutors did not put Martinez on the witness stand.

"I can't speak for the other jurors, but what she knew was critical to our decision," Griffin said.

The group decided to keep talking Friday and debated until about 4:20 p.m. before delivering a note to Judge Mary Chicchelly.

"After a full and fair consideration ... the jury is unable to reach a unanimous decision," the message read.

Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren said the state would retry the case soon.

Chicchelly offered no timeline but noted Jefferson has the right to a second trial within 90 days.

Defense attorney Thomas Gaul indicated he is "leaning" toward asking for a change of venue, requesting the next trial occur somewhere other than Tama County.


Regional Editor for the Courier

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