Trinity County judge declares mistrial in murder case; new trial ordered

Trinity County judge declares mistrial in murder case; new trial ordered

GROVETON, TX (KTRE) - A Trinity County district judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a Groveton man who was accused of shooting and killing Jacob Feller on Oct. 4, 2016, after a juror communicated outside the courtroom.

The mistrial has negated Laymond Blanton's conviction. On Wednesday, a Trinity County jury found Blanton guilty of murder and aggravated assault. They found him not guilty of deadly conduct, according to Sheriff Woody Wallace,

Then on Friday morning, the trial's punishment phase started.

A prosecutor with the Trinity County District Attorney's Office confirmed that a juror communicated outside the courtroom. There is no information on whether there will be any consequences for the juror.

As a result of the mistrial, a new trial will be scheduled for Blanton at a later date unless he agrees to a plea deal. At that time, a jury will again decide on his guilt or innocence.

The East Texas news reporter covering the trial stated that people, including court employees, were visibly angry in regard to the judge declaring a mistrial. she said it was a "shocking moment."

According to the Trinity County Sheriff's Office, Laymond Blanton, 74, of Groveton is accused of shooting and killing Jacob Feller during a verbal argument. 
The report stated that Feller and another man, Nathan Shelton, drove their motorcycles to Blanton's house and got into an argument with Blanton.

The Texas Rangers and TCSO investigation included Blanton's claim that he shot Feller because he felt threatened.

After the attorneys for the state and the defense presented their opening arguments, Feller's widow and son were called to the stand.

Blanton himself later took the stand and expressed his opinion, with visible emotion, on having Feller's juvenile son testify in court.

"That kid don't need to be involved," Blanton said. "They don't need to be up here on the witness stand. It's like killing a mockingbird."

Blanton later agreed, under questioning from the prosecution, that Feller's son wouldn't have been called to testify if Blanton hadn't killed Feller.

Defense attorney Jack Carroll then questioned Blanton on the feelings he had the day that Feller and his friend, Nathan Shelton, approached his home.

"I was trying to scare them," Blanton said. "I felt like they were going to get me. Those guys were after me. And, I don't know why."

Blanton also repeatedly referred to the shot that killed Feller as a "warning shot".

The prosecution questioned Blanton on how long he held on to his gun. Blanton testified that he had the revolver until law enforcement showed up.

"(Feller) got shot," Blanton said. And I'm terribly sorry about that, but it happened."

The jury then recessed for lunch.

During Wednesday's testimony, Benny Schiro, the prosecuting attorney, called multiple witnesses to the stand. One of them, a school bus driver, witnessed the shooting. She testified that she drove up on the shooting incident.

Previous stories: Man accused of shooting man during argument found guilty of murder, aggravated assault

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