A mistrial was declared Thursday in the second murder trial of a Lee County man accused of killing his estranged wife by running her vehicle off a county road.
It was one of two murder trials in session Thursday in Lee County Circuit Court.
The eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated for about three hours before returning deadlocked 8-4 on whether Danny Oaks killed his wife, Penny Oaks.
Circuit Court Judge Barry Ford asked the jury not to reveal if the majority of the votes were for acquittal or conviction.
Assistant District Attorney Rowland Geddie Jr. could not say if the state would try Oaks a third time. He said that decision would be left up to 1st Judicial District Attorney John Young.
“(Oaks) will never be convicted because the state’s case does not fit the physical evidence,” said Oaks’ defense attorney Jim Waide.
Oaks, 35, of Tupelo was charged with deliberately slamming his Ford Ranger pickup into his wife’s truck, forcing the vehicle off Brewer Road. The incident occurred Feb. 8, 1994, about a month after Penny Oaks left her husband.
Penny Oaks, 29, died of massive injuries several hours after the incident.
Direction of the wheels
The prosecution charged that Oaks had been stalking and harassing his wife before finally making good on threats to kill her.
The defense contended the wreck was an accident and that it was Penny Oaks who pulled her truck into her husband’s as he drove alongside her.
The defense claimed Daniel Oaks was trying to get his wife to stop so he could talk to her.
A Mississippi State University professor testified for the defense that the direction the wheels were turned indicated that Penny Oaks turned her vehicle into her estranged husband’s vehicle.
“Which way the wheels were turned didn’t make any difference,” Geddie said. “If he hadn’t been there and passing her she would still be alive.”
During deliberations, the jury sent out two notes requesting more information but still returned with the deadlocked vote.
Waide said the Oaks trial is an emotional one that “women who have been abused have strong feelings about.”
Penny Oaks’ sister has custody of the couple’s now 10-year-old daughter.
This was the second time Oaks has been tried for murder. Last February, after deliberating for more than 10 hours over a two-day period, a jury deadlocked 11-1 for acquittal.
Theoretically, a case can be retried an indefinite number of times if a jury fails to reach a verdict. But usually, prosecutors will only make three attempts.
The second trial
In a second trial, the defense wrapped up testimony in the second day of the murder trial of Leo Green Jr.
Green, 19, of Tupelo is accused of shooting to death his 15-year-old girlfriend Sherry Lester with a .25-caliber handgun.
The shooting occurred about 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 4, 1994, at Lester’s home in the Palmetto-Bissell community.
The prosecution, which is being presented by Assistant District Attorney Rob Coleman, contends that Green was a jealous and possessive boyfriend who killed Lester then bragged about the shooting to her 13-year-old sister before leaving the house with gun in hand while Lester bled on the floor in her bedroom.
Defense attorney Billy W. Shelton argued the shooting was the result of an accident that occurred when Green tried to get the gun away from Lester.
The prosecution contends the .25-caliber gun used in the shooting belonged to Green, while the defense said it was Lester’s.
Both sides agree that after the shooting, Green walked home. About four hours after the shooting, Green turned himself in at the Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Department accompanied by family members.
While on the stand Thursday, Green said immediately after the shooting, he called an aunt and asked her to call police and let them know about the shooting. He said he left because he was afraid after seeing the blood.
During the trial, prosecutors presented five witnesses and the defense presented three. The trial, which is being heard before Circuit Court Judge Frank Russell, will resume today at 9 a.m. with closing arguments.