The murder and arson trial of a Little Rock man accused of killing a couple, then setting their home and bodies on fire to cover it up, ended with a hung jury Wednesday.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright called a mistrial when the nine women and three men reported they could not reach the required unanimous verdict for Raymond Charles Davis. A hearing to schedule a retrial will be set at a later date.
After almost five hours of deliberations with a lunch break, jurors said they were split 11 to 1 in favor of convicting the 32-year-old defendant, who did not testify at the two-day trial.
Jurors reported that they were hopelessly deadlocked shortly after they had finished a 30-minute break for respite from one another because, they said, deliberations had become heated.
Davis was charged with arson and two counts each of first-degree murder and abuse of corpse in the August 2014 shooting deaths of David D. Murphy and Charity Hall.
The charges carry a potential life sentence; Davis faced a minimum of 40 years because of his 2002 armed robbery conviction. He was sentenced to 15 years on that conviction, plus gun and drug charges.
He had been released on parole for the second time in July 2014, about seven weeks before Murphy and Hall were killed.
The couple were found dead in their South Spring Street home by Little Rock firefighters, who had been called to their neighborhood in the middle of the night to investigate the smell of smoke.
Hall was found shot through the neck in the kitchen, while Murphy had been shot point-blank three times: twice in the head, and once in the back. His body was found in the bedroom next to a dog that had also been shot to death.
In her closing argument, deputy prosecutor Amanda Fields asked jurors to think about that dog in deliberations. Only two people other than the police knew that a dog had been killed, Fields said.
One of them was the killer. The other was state's witness Shockalah Danzie, the prosecutor said.
"She heard that straight from that man's mouth," Fields said, pointing at Davis. "How did she know a dog had been there? Because he told her."
Danzie testified that she was at a friend's home the night of the killings and that Davis, whom she barely knew, came over and described the killings to that friend, Candayce Tabron.
But that was not the only thing about the killing Danzie knew, Fields said.
She knew the man who was killed was called "Little Dave," that Hall was a "crackhead," and that Davis had a quarrel with Murphy over an $80 debt -- details Danzie couldn't have known would be backed up by evidence, the prosecutor said.
She also knew the couple had been doused in gasoline, had been killed before being set on fire and had been shot with a small gun -- all "uncommon" knowledge that she couldn't have picked up from street gossip, Fields told jurors.
She had never met Murphy and Hall or been to their home, the prosecutor said.
Danzie had no connection to the couple besides Davis, a man she barely knew but had seen that night, Fields said.
"She's never wavered in her story," the prosecutor said. "It's these uncommon details that make her credible."
Fields said Danzie also could not have known that another witness, 66-year-old Richard Levell Jones, had been at the couple's home shortly before they were killed and had seen them with Davis, whom he knew as "Ray Deuce."
Jones testified that he had just left the house after buying crack cocaine from Davis when he heard a gunshot from the direction of the residence.
Defense attorney Cheryl Barnard told jurors that Danzie didn't know anything she couldn't have learned on the street after the killing.
Barnard said in her closing arguments that Danzie and Jones both changed their stories, "flip-flopping" too many times to be believed.
She asked jurors not to be swayed by the gruesome autopsy and crime scene photographs, saying that what happened to Murphy and Hall was a "tragedy." But what would make that tragedy worse would be to convict an innocent man, Barnard said.
"What would also be as horrible a tragedy would be to convict the wrong person," she said.
No physical evidence connects Davis to the killing, she reminded jurors.
"Smoke and mirrors -- that's what the state is doing," Barnard said.
She said authorities did not do enough to produce witnesses who really might know something about the killings.
Barnard asked jurors to consider why prosecutors didn't force Tabron; Sheena Dillard, Davis' girlfriend; or Lavar Moore, a man also said to be at the couple's home the night of the killings, to come to court.
She compared the case against Davis to a bowl that cannot hold water and showed jurors a colander.
"The state's case has as many holes as this colander," she said.
Metro on 10/15/2015
Print Headline: Jury split 11-1 in double-slaying, judge calls mistrial