A Duluth jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict after about nine hours of deliberation Wednesday in the murder trial of Aaron Demetrius Humphreys.
The jury of nine women and three men received the case after hearing closing arguments and final instructions Wednesday morning. The panel retreated to the jury room at about 11 a.m. and continued discussions until retiring to a Duluth hotel around 8 p.m.
Humphreys, 44, is charged with intentional second-degree murder, illegally possessing a firearm and fifth-degree assault in the shooting death of 47-year-old Eric Wayne Burns at the front door of Lincoln Park’s Bedrock Bar on Oct. 18, 2016.
Authorities allege that Humphreys shot Burns during a brief confrontation just minutes after they had been involved in an altercation inside. But the defense contended that Humphreys witnessed another man he knew only by the nickname “Memphis” fire the fatal shot from outside.
It is actually the third time a jury has been seated in the case, two previous attempts this year having ended abruptly in mistrials. Prosecutors called more than a dozen witnesses to testify over the course of four days, while Humphreys took the stand in his own defense Tuesday.
In his closing argument early Wednesday, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Nate Stumme showed jurors a frame-by-frame breakdown of surveillance video from the incident.
“It would have been impossible for someone other than Mr. Humphreys to shoot Mr. Burns,” the prosecutor argued. “It would have been impossible for Mr. Humphreys to see anyone else do so.”
Stumme said the video shows Humphreys “kicking Mr. Burns in the head like a World Cup soccer player” after the victim became involved in a verbal argument with Humphreys’ friend, Orin Bernard Vann.
Burns left but returned just three minutes later. Humphreys, Stumme said, was eager to confront him.
“With the same excessive, aggressive, brutal mindset we saw him display in that earlier assault, he rushed to the door,” Stumme said of the defendant. “Mr. Humphreys is wanting to finish this.”
Stumme said the trajectory of the bullet through Burns’ chest perfectly matches the position where Humphreys was seen standing. Further, he pointed to the recessed doorway as a barrier that would have made it impossible for the shot to have come from the side.
“Mr. Humphreys is telling us he has vision to penetrate a wall to see someone that no one else can see who has pulled a gun,” the prosecutor told jurors.
He said Humphreys’ actions after the shooting - casually walking back into the bar, looking at Burns out another door and then leaving the scene and attempting to elude police - pointed to his guilt.
“Mr. Humphreys acted like he was guilty because he is guilty,” Stumme said.
Benson, however, told jurors that they should have no reason to doubt the testimony of his client a day prior.
“It’s clear based on everything we’ve heard that there was no indication, no evidence whatsoever, that Mr. Humphreys had a firearm at that door,” the defense attorney argued.
Benson reiterated to jurors that there was no muzzle flash seen in the video, and that investigators did not find evidence to suggest that it was a close-range shot.
He contended that Humphreys was attempting to defend himself and others in the bar when he tried to prevent Burns from re-entering and possibly use a baton to disarm him.
“He told you this,” Benson said to jurors. “He was subject to cross-examination. He was credible. He told you the truth.”
Benson blasted the investigators and the prosecution, alleging that they quickly settled on Humphreys as their suspect and acted with “confirmation bias to the most extreme degree.” He contended that police should have completed a shooting scene reconstruction and attempted to replicate the muzzle flash, among other measures.
“They don’t know what happened,” Benson said in his closing argument. “They jumped to a conclusion and everything they did steers toward that.”
Stumme, on rebuttal, defended the state’s case and said police completed a thorough investigation that left all signs pointing at Humphreys.
“Mr. Benson seems to be an expert on experts,” he said. "You heard from actual experts.”
Sixth Judicial District Judge David Johnson had advised jurors to pack an overnight bag, as they will remain sequestered throughout their deliberations.