Dixon Jurors Reach 11-1 Impasse
Posted September 17, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — After 16 hours of deliberations, jurors failed to reach a verdict Friday in the case of a Virginia truck driver charged in one of the Triangle's deadliest highway accidents. The jury foreman says the panel is at "a very substantial impasse."
The news didn't rattle the confidence of the judge who remains optimistic the jury will break their 11-1 stalemate after a weekend off.
The waiting isn't easy for relatives of the victims or the driver's family. 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 two weeks 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 accident scene, accident scene pictures, and the legal definition of the word "wanton."
The jury has three choices for a verdict. It can find Dixon guilty of involuntary manslaughter, guilty of misdemeanor death by vehicle or not guilty on all counts. If convicted on all eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, Dixon will face up to 13 years in prison.
The whole case centers on one issue. Was Esau Dixon negligent? Did he disregard the safety of others of August 23, 1996? Dixon's attorneys say an Umstead State Hospital van darted in front of their client's truck, causing the accident that killed eight people. Prosecutors say Dixon was going too fast in his 70,000 pound rig, and that is to blame for all of the 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, his trucking company, and the highway construction company.
MJ AinsleyandJacqueline Wright