Mistrial declared after jury deadlocks in 2016 slaying of teenager; prosecutors say they will re-try

Mistrial declared after jury deadlocks in 2016 slaying of teenager; prosecutors say they will re-try
Otis Walker TODD COOPER/THE WORLD-HERALD

Prosecutors say they will retry an Omaha man in the Nov. 26, 2016, shooting death of a 16-year-old Omahan.

A judge declared a mistrial after jurors deadlocked this week over whether Otis Walker, 24, was the gunman who shot and killed Markeise Dunn.

Jurors deliberated about 17 hours over three days but could not reach a unanimous verdict on Walker’s guilt or innocence in the death of Dunn, 16.

At one point in deliberations, the jury’s vote was evenly split at six guilty, six not guilty. Judge J Russell Derr sent them back into deliberations to see if they could work toward a verdict. By the time the judge declared an impasse, the tally was seven guilty votes to five not guilty.

Chief Deputy Douglas County Attorney Brenda Beadle and fellow prosecutor Ann Miller said they’re ready to prosecute Walker again.

“I’m frustrated and disappointed, to say the least,” Beadle said. “But we will regroup … and I’m confident we’ll get a different result next time. It’s a really good case, and we’re not afraid to try it again.”

Dunn had been walking his girlfriend to a bus stop along Pratt Street on a Saturday morning when a burgundy car crept up behind them.

The passenger in the car called out “what’s up” several times and “where you from” before opening fire. Dunn’s girlfriend testified that she recognized the gunman as “Otis” from their days at McMillan Middle School.

Walker’s attorneys, Assistant Public Defenders Cindy Tate and Mikki Jerabek, had noted that the girlfriend couldn’t put the gun in Walker’s hands — a point the dissenting jurors pounced on.

Tate and Jerabek questioned whether the driver had opened fire. They also highlighted that the girlfriend admitted to smoking marijuana as much as six times a day — suggesting that her ability to identify the gunman was impaired.

Beadle and Miller had pointed out that Walker had fled to Texas after the shooting. Walker’s attorneys countered that such a move didn’t mean he was fleeing because of the shooting. The trip to Texas also could have been because he had violated his parole, they noted.

The jury wasn’t told what Walker was on parole for, but it was a June 2012 shooting in which he opened fire on a car full of teens near 30th and Martin Streets in northeast Omaha.

Walker was with another gang member, Garion Johnson, that day. Walker was paroled early in 2016 after serving about four years for that shooting.

After the shooting of Dunn, Omaha police seized his phone — and prosecutors pointed to Google searches Walker had completed after Dunn’s death. Among them: “good lawyers to find in Omaha” and “do you have to get picked out of a lineup to be found guilty?”

Beadle said prosecutors probably will renew their attempts to show that Dunn’s killing stemmed from a gang-involved shooting.

Though prosecutors say Dunn was not in a gang, he was related to members of the Bottoms gang. Walker is a known member of the 40th Avenue Crips.

A gang sergeant testified at a pretrial hearing that the “where you from” question is a common question among gangs trying to mark their territory.

Prosecutors asserted that that was the only motive for this slaying. However, Judge Derr did not allow any testimony on gang connections.

A new trial date has not been set. Walker remains in custody.

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