A judge declared a mistrial yesterday after the jury was hopelessly deadlocked on the third day of deliberating in the murder trial of a man accused of raping and suffocating an Eastern Michigan University student.
Orange Taylor III, 21, of Southfield was charged with an open count of murder, which gave the jury a choice of first- or second-degree murder, in the death of Laura Dickinson, 22, of Hastings.
The jury began deliberations Friday and continued Monday, but it told Washtenaw Chief Circuit Judge Archie Brown on Tuesday afternoon that a decision wasn’t possible.
“Do you believe there is any possibility you could reach a verdict on one or any of the charges,” Brown asked the jury.
Jurors answered: “No, your honor.”
“Sometimes you just can’t reach agreement,” Brown told them. He then set Jan. 28 as the date for a new trial.
Family members of Dickinson at the court had no immediate comment. A message was left yesterday evening at a coffeehouse in Hastings owned by the family.
As he was being led from the courtroom, Taylor pumped his fist in celebration toward his family.
“You have a hung jury so there must be some indecision,” his father, Orange Taylor Jr., said later. “He’s not that type of person. True enough, he’s young, but he’s not a murderer.”
Taylor also was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a penalty of up to life in prison.
First-degree murder automatically brings a penalty of life in prison without parole, while second-degree murder carries up to life in prison.
Juror Lauretta Codrington, 48, said she was one of two who favored acquitting Taylor. She said the remaining 10 favored conviction.
The evidence, she said, did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crime: “We couldn’t place the defendant in (Dickinson’s) room before she died,” said Codrington, who lives in Ann Arbor and owns a sports management company.
Authorities say Dickinson was sleeping when Taylor entered her room the night of Dec. 13. They say he raped her and smothered her with a pillow. A surveillance video shows him leaving with some of her property.
A custodian found her body Dec. 15.
Initially, university officials told her parents and the media that there was no sign of foul play.
An independent investigation and a U.S. Department of Education report both found that the university had violated a federal act requiring the disclosure of campus security information.
The school’s Board of Regents later fired university President John Fallon.
Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Vick and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall were forced to retire.