Jurors deadlocked in beating with bat

Published 12:02 pm Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jurors could not agree Tuesday on the fate of a 19-year-old Vicksburg man accused of aggravated assault, and a mistrial was declared after a two-day trial in Warren County Circuit Court.

Kyle Fulgham, 530 Still Drive, will be retried, District Attorney Ricky Smith said after jurors reported being deadlocked after nearly three hours of deliberation. The vote was 7-5 but whether conviction or acquittal was favored was not released.

Fulgham and two others — one a juvenile — were accused of assaulting a Warren County teen with baseball bats June 26 at a home on Burnt House Road.

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The victim suffered a broken jaw, fractured nose and bruises to his back and one of his lungs, said Assistant District Attorney Dewey Arthur, who prosecuted the case. The victim required reconstructive surgery but reportedly has recovered from his injuries.

Brenda Theriot, victim assistance coordinator for the district attorney’s office, said jurors had a number of questions about the difference between aggravated assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a prohibition against owning a weapon, and simple assault, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Jurors could have found Fulgham guilty of either, or acquitted him.

Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick presided over the trial that began Monday with jury selection and prosecution testimony.

Prosecution witnesses included Steven Manus, 20, one of the men arrested with Fulgham, who testified the three knew the victim at the Burnt House Road home and went there to beat him up.

Manus pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault and was sentenced by Patrick to five years of probation.

Fulgham, who claimed he acted in self-defense, testified in his own defense. His younger brother, Cory, also testified, saying he was the one with the bat.

In his closing argument Tuesday, defense attorney Clarence Whitaker claimed the testimony showed the victim had initiated the fight, making objectionable phone calls to the three after they objected to Kyle Fulgham’s treatment of his girlfriend.

But Arthur countered that no mention of the phone calls had been made until 15 days before the trial began, and no one can be injured by phone in any case.

“You don’t take a baseball bat to somebody because they say something ugly to you over the phone,” Arthur said in his closing argument. Imminent danger that justifies self-defense “can’t exceed the amount of force necessary to repel the attack,” he said, and a prosecution witness had testified the victim was beaten by bats and fists after he was down on the ground and posed no threat.

In addition to probation, Manus, 430 Sunny Lane in Florence, must pay the victim $3,305 in restitution and $332.50 in court costs.

The juvenile’s case was heard in Warren County Youth Court, Arthur said. Those records are sealed.