Local News

Jury Finds Defendants Not Guilty in Shaw Jumping Case

Posted November 13, 2000

— A Wake County jury found three people not guilty of involuntary manslaughter inthe death of a Shaw University student.

Defendants Meyun Donnell, Rodney Wilson and Robert Smith were acquitted of the charges, but Smith and Wilson were convicted of simple assault. Smith was sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Antwan Merritt, 18, jumped out of an eighth-floor window following a fight in his dorm room last November.

Prosecutors had told the jury that the three men were responsible for Merritt's actions.

"You're in this tiny little dorm room with all these people between you and the door," prosecutor Howard Cummings said. "You've already been beat senseless. What is [Merritt's] only alternative but to try to get out, and that's what he did."

More than a dozen of Merritt's friends and family members had been in the courtroom during the trial. Legal experts were also keeping tabs on the case, because cases where someone is found responsible for death by intimidation are rare.

The defense had argued that one of the defendants tried to defuse the situation by restraining Merritt's roommate.

"[A defendant] grabbed [the roommate] by the back of the neck, pulled him down and held him down to stay out of what was a one-on-one fight and contain the situation," defense attorney Gary Presnell said.

Two more men, including a Shaw student, still have to be tried in this case. Curtis Wilson and Tyrone Hoy, who was a freshman at the time, are also charged with involuntary manslaughter. Their court dates have not been scheduled.

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