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Dixon Jurors Reach 11-1 Impasse

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DURHAM — After 16 hours of deliberations, jurors failed to reach a verdict Fridayin the case of a Virginia truck driver charged in one of the Triangle'sdeadliest highway accidents. The jury foreman says the panel is at "avery substantial impasse."

The news didn't rattle the confidence of the judge who remains optimisticthe jury will break their 11-1 stalemate after a weekend off.

The waiting isn't easy for relatives of the victims or the driver'sfamily. Dixon's supporters say anything is better than a guilty verdict.For now they're "keeping the faith."

Kenneth Davis died in the accident. His mother has spent the last twoweeks in court. She's just hoping for closure.

The panel got the case shortly after 2:00 p.m. Wednesday. Minutes later,jurors came out to ask for a computer-generated video of the accidentscene, accident scene pictures, and the legal definition of the word"wanton."

The jury has three choices for a verdict. It can find Dixon guilty ofinvoluntary manslaughter, guilty of misdemeanor death by vehicle or notguilty on all counts. If convicted on all eight counts of involuntarymanslaughter, Dixon will face up to 13 years in prison.

The whole case centers on one issue. Was Esau Dixon negligent? Did hedisregard the safety of others of August 23, 1996? Dixon's attorneys sayan Umstead State Hospital van darted in front of their client's truck,causing the accident that killed eight people. Prosecutors say Dixon wasgoing too fast in his 70,000 pound rig, and that is to blame for all ofthe deaths.

Dixon's defense says the prosecution's case is based on emotion, not fact.They say blaming the Virginia trucker defies common sense.

No matter how the case turns out. It's not over with the verdict.Several victim's families have civil suits pending against Dixon, histrucking company, and the highway construction company.

MJAinsleyandJacquelineWright

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