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Judge Declares Mistrial in Esau Dixon Case

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DURHAM — District Attorney Jim HardinJr. has not decided whether to retry a Virginia trucker on a misdemeanorcharge after a judge declared a mistrial and dismissed eight felony manslaughtercharges. 

With 11 jurors voting for not guilty and one voting in favor of a convictionon  misdemeanor death by motor vehicle the judge declared a mistrial.The jury deliberated for a total of 17-and-a-half hours before the foremantold the  Judge Gordon Battle that jurors were hopelessly deadlocked. 

The mistrial came after nearly two weeks of testimony in which witnessesfor the prosecution and the defense gave contradictory accounts of what happened when Dixon's truck and fourother vehicles collided on Aug. 23, 1996. 

Prosecution witnesses said the accident was triggered when Dixon's 74,000-poundtractor-trailer, moving at 56 mph, slammed into the back of a John Umstead Hospital van stopped becauseof traffic congestion in a construction zone. 

But defense witnesses, including Dixon himself, said the accident wastriggered when the van abruptly cut him off as it attempted to pass. 

Dixon was being tried on charges stemming from the accident last Augustthat left eight people dead, one of the most deadly wrecks on record inNorth Carolina. Seven of those who died were riding in the hospital van.The eighth victim was driving another vehicle. Dixon's tractor-trailercollided with a van in a construction zone on Interstate-85. 

Leonard Spicer, the jury foreman, said it was a very difficult caseand 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 Robertsthathe was disappointed with the outcome of the trial. 


Betty Dixon is Esau Dixon's wife. She said she was glad the jury hadnot been able to convict her husband. 


Esau Dixon did not want to comment after the mistrial was declared.