La PORTE — Jurors failed to reach a verdict Wednesday against a man accused of fatally shooting a passenger in a car driven by his rival as the two cars raced side by side along Michigan Boulevard in Michigan City.
Kersee Anderson, wearing a tie and confined by ankle cuffs, was escorted back to jail when Circuit Judge Thomas Alevizos declared a mistrial after a day of jury selection and nearly six days of testimony.
Polled outside the courtroom, jurors indicated they were split 10-2, leaning toward a conviction of reckless homicide, but could not reach a unanimous decision.
“Just wasn’t enough evidence for a murder conviction,” one woman said.
Anderson was charged with murder in the October 2016 death of Wade Hatcher, but instructions read by the court before deliberations allowed jurors the option of returning a verdict on the lesser charge of reckless homicide if they believed the evidence supported it.
“We are done,” the jury told the court in a written statement signed by all 12 jurors and one alternate.
One juror, citing extreme anxiety, was dismissed from her responsibilities earlier in the week.
A second juror was questioned by the court Wednesday after she admitted she contacted another juror outside the courtroom. However, the judge allowed her to continue serving after determining “the transgression was not an attempt to gain factual information in the case.”
Jurors then heard final arguments in the case and began deliberations about noon before declaring they were deadlocked about 3:45 p.m.
A mistrial means Anderson could be tried again if the state and defense attorneys fail to reach agreement in a second prosecution.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Buitendorp, in the hallway after the panel was dismissed, said she thought the state made a strong case and praised jurors for their service.
“Obviously we’re disappointed we couldn’t get it resolved for the family of the victim,” she said.
Defense attorney Scott King said no one can know with certainty why a jury fails to reach a verdict.
“We thought there were some significant issues regarding the state’s case, and I think we did a good job of pointing those out,” he said. “I don’t think either side goes into a trial hoping to get a hung jury.”
The state presented evidence showing Anderson was involved in a confrontation with Terrance Cooper at Franciscan Health Michigan City two weeks before the shooting.
“We know this case is about the defendant’s ongoing and increasing aggression toward Terrance Cooper,” Buitendorp told jurors during closing arguments.
Eyewitnesses testified Anderson was in the back seat of a Honda that pulled alongside an Impala driven by Cooper when the fatal shots were fired.
Testimony showed Cooper identified Anderson as the man who killed his best friend in the moments after the shooting: "Kersee just shot Wade," he was quoted as saying.
The shooting occurred on Michigan Boulevard just outside the Michigan City Police Station, according to investigators.
Defense attorneys sought to cast doubt on the case by insisting witnesses were intimidated and coerced into testifying against Anderson. They said police were certain Anderson was the killer based on “word on the street” and built their case on that false assumption.
Surveillance footage of the vehicles — taken from convenience stores, a car wash, the South Shore train station, even the police station — failed to prove Anderson was in the car at the time of the shooting, they said.
Defense attorney Russell Brown, in closing statements, said it was not clear the shooting even happened on Michigan Boulevard because so little evidence was found at the scene.
Prosecutors said the scene was not secured by investigagtors until two hours after the shooting, although the few glass fragments investigators found were consistent with the kind of windows shot out of the Impala.
Although no weapon was located, prosecutors said, the discovery of a 9 mm shell casing in the back seat of the Honda and in the toilet of a house where the Honda later stopped matched testimony and surveillance footage showing Anderson was the gunman.
Indiana law says anyone who tries to kill a person but instead kills someone else is responsible for the death in any case, Buitendorp said.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Anderson was a bad shot and killed Wade,” she told the jury.