Judge Declares Mistrial in Esau Dixon Case
Posted September 22, 1997
DURHAM — District Attorney Jim Hardin Jr. has not decided whether to retry a Virginia trucker on a misdemeanor charge after a judge declared a mistrial and dismissed eight felony manslaughter charges.
With 11 jurors voting for not guilty and one voting in favor of a conviction on misdemeanor death by motor vehicle the judge declared a mistrial. The jury deliberated for a total of 17-and-a-half hours before the foreman told the Judge Gordon Battle that jurors were hopelessly deadlocked.
The mistrial came after nearly two weeks of testimony in which witnesses for the prosecution and the defense gave contradictory accounts of what happened when Dixon's truck and four other vehicles collided on Aug. 23, 1996.
Prosecution witnesses said the accident was triggered when Dixon's 74,000-pound tractor-trailer, moving at 56 mph, slammed into the back of a John Umstead Hospital van stopped because of traffic congestion in a construction zone.
But defense witnesses, including Dixon himself, said the accident was triggered when the van abruptly cut him off as it attempted to pass.
Dixon was being tried on charges stemming from the accident last August that left eight people dead, one of the most deadly wrecks on record in North Carolina. Seven of those who died were riding in the hospital van. The eighth victim was driving another vehicle. Dixon's tractor-trailer collided with a van in a construction zone on Interstate-85.
Leonard Spicer, the jury foreman, said it was a very difficult case and that everyone on the jury had compassion for all involved.
Maurice Davis, brother of Kenneth Davis who was killed in the accident, told WRAL-TV5'sMark Robertsthat he was disappointed with the outcome of the trial.
Betty Dixon is Esau Dixon's wife. She said she was glad the jury had not been able to convict her husband.
Esau Dixon did not want to comment after the mistrial was declared.