Jury fails to render unanimous verdict in capital murder case

Published 11:22 am Thursday, June 13, 2024

TUPELO — A jury failed to return a unanimous verdict for Natchezian Justin Anderson being tried in the July 21, 2019 death of Zariah Antel Newton. The case was tried in Tupelo due to a change in venue this week. 

Defense Attorney Zach Jex said the trial for his client started Monday and wrapped up Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Anderson was charged with capital murder in the case. 

Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Michael Taylor presided over the case which concluded in a hung jury. In Mississippi, a hung jury means the jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict which results in a mistrial. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Jex said they are not able to know why the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Jury deliberations are secret but the result shows they didn’t agree on a verdict. 

“It could be tried again but that is the state’s decision. The defendant is back in the same spot he was in before the trial started,” Jex said. “When you are a defense attorney you are looking for any verdict other than guilty. A mistrial is a win all the same. With the most serious charge you can get, having a hung jury is a success in a case like this. We are happy to have performed well for our client.” 

Anderson was being tried for capital murder in the killing of Newton while engaged in a felony. He was one of three men allegedly burglarizing a home at 202 Mason Road, Brookhaven, that Newton shared with Javian Richardson, when the couple came home and confronted the intruders. Newton was shot and killed on July 21, 2019. 

Jatavious Berry and Adrian Smith were arrested in connection to the case. Both men accepted plea deals and are currently serving time for burglary and conspiracy. 

Jex’s co-council is Noah Drake. The two worked to defend their client and will prepare to do so again. Jex said the state was unable to prove Anderson fired the gun in the burglary. 

“We are disputing that he was even there. The state alleges he was there,” Jex said. “Our belief is he was not there at all.” 

It is up to Lincoln County’s District Attorney Brendon Adams on what happens next. Adams said they are preparing to go to trial as things stand right now. A new trial date would be set by Taylor. 

“We are disappointed the jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision,” Adams said. “We will start from square one and start over again. I hate it for the family but we will work to get the justice we believe they deserve. Of course, all defendants are innocent until proven guilty.” 

Oasis Club Shooting

Anderson was previously found not guilty of the murder of Billy Ray Thomas and aggravated assault in the shooting of Joshua Thomas according to The Daily Leader. Both men were shot as they exited a private party at the Oasis Club on South First Street just after midnight on Nov. 24, 2017. 

Anderson originally had been indicted in that case with six counts of aggravated assault for the shooting of Joshua Thomas as well as Kentrell E. Tucker, Breanna L. Johnson, Tyquonesha S. Dickey, Samual C. Seals and Sylvester Williams at the Oasis Club, but was only on trial for the murder of Billy Ray Thomas and the assault on Joshua Thomas in 2017.