Crime & Courts

Mistrial declared in Charlotte capital murder case

After a trial lasting more than two months, a jury deadlocked Tuesday and a mistrial was declared in the capital murder case against Demarcus Ivey.

Ivey was accused of shooting 25-year-old Adrian Youngblood during a 2009 robbery at a strip club on Little Rock Road. His freedom depended on whether a Mecklenburg jury believed he was the hooded gunman in a grainy, black-and-white video from the club.

Ivey, 33, faced a possible death sentence if convicted. After the mistrial, he remained in the Mecklenburg jail with no bond, still charged with murder. Prosecutors declined to comment and have not said whether they will seek a new trial.

On Tuesday afternoon, the jury of seven men and five women sent a note to Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin, saying they couldn’t reach the required unanimous verdict.

The mistrial hinged on one juror, Jacqueline McCain, who said in a note to the judge that she felt Ivey was innocent.

For about an hour, Judge Ervin listened to prosecutors and defense attorneys debate whether to clarify the law for jurors or give them more time to help them come to a unanimous decision.

Norman Butler, one of Ivey’s defense attorneys, argued that such a move could be seen as coercive.

“This lady has the ability to consider fairly what she heard,” Butler told the judge. “And she’s done that to her satisfaction, and to ask her now what further do you need or is there anything else that we can do for you to try to get you to change your position seems coercive.”

Ervin polled the jurors, asking if they believed they could agree on a verdict if given more time. When they indicated they couldn’t, he declared a mistrial.

Afterward, outside the courtroom, McCain approached Butler and said her conscience would not allow her to vote guilty.

“I thanked the judge for not making me do something I didn’t want to do,” McCain told the Observer. “I did not believe that man was guilty.”

McCain did not expound on why she believes Ivey wasn’t guilty. She said she was the only holdout.

Butler said he couldn’t remember ever having a mistrial declared, but he said the result was a “testament of a trial by jury.”

“Different people can look at the same evidence and draw a different conclusion,” Butler said. “And that’s OK, even though it may be different from their fellow jurors.”

During closing arguments last week, Ivey’s lawyers told jurors that the prosecution had not proved its case. Butler and Grady Jessup argued that the weeks of evidence turned up no witnesses who identified Ivey as the gunman at the robbery. The defense team argued that police botched DNA testing, never tested Ivey for gunshot residue and did not produce a gun linking him to the crime.

In his closing arguments, prosecutor Bill Stetzer said the facts led to a logical conclusion that Ivey shot and killed a helpless man. Stetzer described it as a “sport killing.”

The centerpiece of Stetzer’s 90-minute closing was a compilation surveillance video from Club Nikki’s. It opens with two men driving up to the club in a Ford pickup. Stetzer said the driver was Kevin Bishop, now serving a 20-year sentence for second-degree murder in connection with the case. His passenger wears a dark gray sweatshirt.

Inside the club, the video shows the two gunmen ordering about a dozen of the club’s patrons, dancers and staff on the floor. The robbers go group to group, taking cash, cellphones, jewelry and other items.

As they leave, the man in the dark gray sweatshirt stops by Youngblood and rips something off the back of his neck. He steps to the doorway and then looks back into the club. Then he fires his handgun directly down at Youngblood, who crumples to the floor.

Later that day, police began chasing a Ford truck on Interstate 85. The truck crashed shortly after exiting onto Beatties Ford Road. Two men fled. Bishop and Ivey were arrested nearby.

Inside the truck, police found loot taken from Club Nikki’s, Stetzer said. They also found a dark gray sweatshirt on the passenger side. Researcher Maria David contributed.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer