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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

Murder trial judge dismisses hung jury


Published:

CLEARWATER - Jurors couldn't reach agreement in a murder case that hinged on eyewitness testimony against an ex-convict accused of shooting a drug dealer.

After deliberating past midnight Friday, jurors remained divided on whether Dwayne Bailey, 27, was guilty of shooting Marquell Burge, 31, outside a South St. Petersburg hangout two years ago.

Earlier in the evening, jurors told the judge they were split 8-4 on a decision. Whether the split leaned toward a guilty verdict or an acquittal was unclear, defense attorney Richard Watts said.

"When they came back (the final time), a number wasn't given. They just said they were hopelessly deadlocked," Watts said.

Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty.

Circuit Judge Phillip Federico dismissed the jury in the early morning hours Saturday.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20, at which time attorneys will discuss setting a date for a new trial, Watts said.

On March 17, 2011, Burge was shot in the back of the head shortly after 2 a.m. outside the Game Room at 1149 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. S. He was robbed of money and drugs.

Three witnesses identified Bailey as the shooter, saying they recognized his distinctive eyes, even though he covered his face with a black shirt.

Defense attorneys argued that the witnesses were likely impaired and therefore unreliable as one of them had been drinking alcohol and the other two had been seen with marijuana.

Watts said he wasn't surprised by the hung jury. There was no DNA or other hard evidence presented in the case and each side had an expert in eyewitness testimony that refuted the other side, he said.

jboatwright@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-1277

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