Local News

Judge denies mistrial in hit-and-run rampage

Posted March 12, 2010 1:26 p.m. EST
Updated March 12, 2010 6:16 p.m. EST

— Jurors deliberated for three hours Friday without reaching a verdict in the case of a man accused in a 2004 hit-and-run rampage across three counties.

Abdullah El-Amin Shareef, 31, of Raeford, is charged with murder and four counts of attempted murder and could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Authorities said Shareef stole a city-owned van in Fayetteville on April 14, 2004, hit and injured three men in Fayetteville, then ran over Lonel Bass in Linden, killing him. Shareef abandoned the van, took Bass' pickup truck and continued north, authorities said, running down another man in Harnett County before crashing the truck in Fuquay-Varina, where he was arrested.

Shareef has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His attorneys have said he suffered from untreated paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the crimes.

Psychologists who evaluated Shareef shortly after the incident testified during the three-week trial that he was psychotic.

But prosecutors argued that Shareef made "conscious decisions" during the incident, running down men who were by themselves and then fleeing to avoid arrest.

Defense attorneys tried to have a mistrial declared Friday morning, claiming that Superior Court Judge Jim Ammons prematurely halted their closing arguments Thursday and that jurors overheard victims' relatives and law enforcement officers talking in the hallway outside the courtroom.

After questioning jurors individually to determine if they had heard any discussions during the course of the trial, Ammons denied the defense motion.

Deliberations also were put on hold for more than an hour Friday afternoon while Ammons and attorneys for both sides held a closed-door meeting. It was unclear what was discussed.

Jurors were expected to continue deliberations on Monday.