The trial of a 20-year-old armed robbery suspect linked by the color of his underwear to a restaurant holdup ended with a hung jury on Friday after a two-day trial.
Rodrick Howard told jurors that police had arrested the wrong man.
The eight women and four men of the jury deadlocked 9-3 favoring a guilty verdict before reporting they could not reach the required unanimous decision on the aggravated robbery and theft charges.
The announcement after about three hours of deliberations led Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson to declare a mistrial. Prosecutors will announce their plans to retry Howard next week.
Howard is accused of being the second of two armed robbers who held up Paxton's Pizza at 13420 Otter Creek Parkway on Feb. 3, 2015. The robbers, their faces covered by their hoodies, forced customers and staff into the eatery's walk-in refrigerator under threat of death. The restaurant has since relocated to Bryant.
Defense attorney Ron Nichols told jurors in closing arguments Friday that authorities had no real proof that Howard was one of the robbers. Police had no DNA or fingerprints to link him to the robbery; neither victim -- customer Chase Melton or store manager Carla Flores -- could identity him; and he's not seen on the store surveillance video, Nichols said.
A witness description of a "big nose" robber indicates the gunman was actually a friend of Howard's, Tryten Tillman, Nichols told jurors.
Tillman was with Howard when he was arrested about two hours after the holdup but was released without charges. The other man arrested with Howard, 22-year-old Ray Thomas, has admitted that he was one of the gunmen, and he testified that Howard was his partner in the holdup. Thomas pleaded guilty to the charges in April 2016 in exchange for an 11-year prison sentence.
Howard was charged, in part, because the yellow underwear he was wearing when he was arrested matches the yellow stripe of clothing that can seen on the robber in question on the security video, prosecutors Lauren Eldridge and Jennifer Corbin said. The robber also had on a white T-shirt, just like the one Howard was wearing when he was arrested, the prosecutors said.
Police also found Howard sitting next to a black hoodie that matches what the robber was wearing, and a loaded .380 pistol found at his feet looks like the gun seen in the video, they told jurors. They said Ray, who admitted to being the red-hoodied robber, had no reason to lie about what had happened.
Thomas and Howard were arrested about a half-mile from Paxton's by police who were on the trail of the fleeing robbers, using a police dog to track the gunmen as they ran.
Officers saw them get into a black Chevrolet Cruze about a half-mile from the restaurant and found Howard, Thomas and Tillman in the back seat of the car, with the pistol and black hoodie.
Metro on 02/24/2018
Print Headline: Trial in eatery holdup ends with hung jury