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Othal Wallace trial: no verdict after first day, jury to resume deliberations Saturday

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. — After more than 11 hours of deliberations Friday, jurors in the trial of the killer of Daytona Beach Police Officer Jason Raynor were unable to reach a verdict and returned to their Clay County hotel rooms to rest.

While there’s no question Wallace shot Raynor, the 12 men and women are trying to determine whether Wallace should be eligible for the death penalty, or if he shot Raynor in self-defense.

According to prosecutors, Officer Raynor was on patrol when he saw Wallace sitting in his car and approached Wallace to question him about a stolen car in June 2021. They said Wallace did not listen to the officer’s instructions.

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Prosecutors say Wallace’s social media posts pointed to a desire to kill a law enforcement officer ahead of the shooting.

Wallace said he was an overly expressive person and had a fear of the police. He said he kept trying to look for a way to walk away and went for a gun when he saw Raynor reaching for his belt.

“I was too afraid,” he said during testimony on Thursday. “If I stayed in that vehicle and someone saw me, I would get shot and never have an opportunity to explain myself.”

Read: Verdict watch: Jury deliberating fate of accused cop killer Othal Wallace

Jurors asked four questions of the court in the initial hours of deliberations:

1. When does an interaction transition from freedom to detainment?

2. Can an officer legally detain someone without giving a reason?

3. Is the apartment complex where the shooting happened considered private property?

4. Is carrying a gun across a parking lot considered concealed carry?

They received answers to two of their questions:

1. A person is detained when they are no longer free to leave.

2. Someone can be detained without being given a reason.

3. The court cannot say whether an apartment complex was private property.

4. The jury instructions included information about concealed carry.

A fifth question was asked around 8:30, hours after the other four, about whether a detained person could be restrained. The answer was yes if the restraining was temporary.

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Attorney David Bigney said in his experience, it appeared Wallace’s defense was still being seriously considered by at least one juror.

“What I’m thinking as I hear these questions is there’s at least one juror in there that is toying around with, ‘Oh, my gosh, they have not proven reasonable doubt.’”

Bigney said it was unlikely the jury was evenly split, and most had picked guilty or not guilty, with one or two hold-outs. He believed most were convinced Wallace was guilty, though it was just speculation.

There was also the question of which degree of guilt. Prosecutors were gunning for first-degree murder, which comes in two forms: premeditated, and during the commission of another serious crime. They gave the jury options for both.

Jury members could also decide to go with lesser convictions of second-degree murder or manslaughter, which would take the death penalty off the table.

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Wallace’s team already appears to be strategizing for a possible appeal if the verdict does not go in his favor. They protested and asked for a mistrial when the judge gave what appeared to be confusing instructions to the jury about the different types of first-degree murder, as well as the difference between the murder of a law enforcement officer and someone else.

According to state statutes, Raynor’s status as a law enforcement officer while on patrol makes Wallace’s case slightly more difficult, since one of the felony first-degree murder crimes is resisting a law enforcement officer.

In simple terms, though, the charge of murder of a law enforcement officer acts as a sentence enhancer over typical homicides to guarantee a minimum of life in prison without parole if the death penalty isn’t found.

Jurors are sequestered during this trial, meaning their access to the outside world has been limited. They’re expected to resume deliberations early Saturday morning.

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