Patrick declares mistrial in Vega case
Published 12:41 am Sunday, March 9, 2014
After eight hours of deliberation, a jury was helplessly deadlocked on a decision to convict or acquit Tyla Vega of the May 2, 2011 shooting death of her stepmother.
“We did what we asked you to do,” Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick told the jury of eight women and four men at 12:05 a.m. today. “You deliberated, but sometimes you cannot come to a verdict.”
Patrick is expected to set a new trial date this week. He said Vega is to remain in the Warren County Jail, pending the new trial.
At about 11 p.m., Circuit Court Judge Isadore Patrick re-read instructions to the jury, who then returned to the jury room to continue deliberations.
Two hours beforehand, Patrick brought them down to the courtroom and asked them if they wanted to continue deliberating or go back to their hotel.
“Some feel it would be fruitful and some feel it wouldn’t,” said an unidentified juror. The Vicksburg Post does not identify members of juries.
Patrick then asked jurors who felt they shouldn’t continue deliberations. No one answered. In response to further questioning from Patrick, a juror said their first vote was 9-3, though they did not say if the majority of votes was for guilty or not guilty. At 9 p.m., they said the second vote was 10-2. By law, juries in Mississippi are not allowed to elaborate on such votes, even in open court.
No vote or update was read during the 11 p.m. session with Patrick.
The jury has four different options to consider. Vega can be found guilty or not guilty of murder by deliberate design, depraved heart murder, heat of passion manslaughter, or manslaughter by culpable negligence.
Vega, 17, is accused of murder in the May 2, 2011, shooting death of her stepmother, Michelle Vega, at the family home on Jones Road.
Defense attorney Marshall Sanders contends Tyla Vega was beaten and neglected because of her race. Her biological mother is black. Her father, Jason Vega, is white, as was Michelle Vega.
District Attorney Ricky Smith has led a vigorous case for the state, arguing the alleged abuse did not justify shooting her stepmother with a high-powered hunting rifle.
Expert testimony Friday from Dr. Gerald O’Brien, a psychologist, revealed Vega was examined twice in 2013. O’Brien said Vega suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by years of abuse.
Vega took the stand Thursday and Friday, presenting an account that differed from her initial interrogation by Warren County Sheriff’s investigators after the shooting. Vega, who had served eight days in youth detention the month before the shooting, asserted multiple prosecution witnesses lied while on the stand and denied ever meeting the Warren County Youth Court intake officer. That officer, Horace Allen, said he met with her on multiple occasions.
If convicted, Vega could face life in prison. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling, however, says mandatory life sentences for juveniles is unconstitutional.