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After two weeks in court, a hung jury leads to mistrial in Knibbs case

Scott Knibbs was shot to death in his own home around midnight on April 30, 2018.  Donated photo Scott Knibbs was shot to death in his own home around midnight on April 30, 2018. Donated photo

There’s some truth to the old cliché that one readily recognizable sound is the ultimate deterrent against a would-be home intruder.


It’s the distinct noise a shotgun makes when it’s racked, the action that brings a shell from the magazine into the chamber, where it’s ready to fire. 

It’s the sound that around midnight on April 30, 2018, former Macon County Deputy Anthony Momphard Jr. heard while walking up the front steps onto the porch of Michael Scott Knibbs’ house at 164 Pheasant Drive near Franklin right after he announced “sheriff’s office.”

It’s the sound that sent him into an adrenaline-pumping fight-or-flight state. He’d later say what transpired over the next 10-15 seconds felt like about two minutes. 

Upon hearing the unmistakable ratcheting sound, Momphard unholstered his Glock Model 22 .40 caliber handgun and his flashlight and shouted “put the weapon down” at least two times. 

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No response. 

Momphard was already on the Knibbs’ porch near their front door and was walled in on two sides. He had two options. He could go back down the steps and seek cover, but he said that option left him exposed too long, and he wasn’t comfortable with turning his back and running or trying to walk backward. 

He chose to move to the left toward the edge of the porch. Doing so put him in the line of sight of the Knibbs’ living room windows. Feeling there may be a threat inside, as he crossed to the left, he shined his flashlight into the windows, where he saw Scott Knibbs standing with his shotgun. Momphard said it was pointed right at him. He fired six shots in rapid succession. Four went through the window and two hit Knibbs 

Knibbs, bleeding profusely from the gunshots, reeled and fell face down a few feet from where he was shot. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Within a few days, a close friend of Scott Knibbs called the law office of Mark Melrose in Waynesville. Several months later, once the state declined to prosecute Momphard criminally, Melrose filed a suit on behalf of Knibbs’ widow, Missy, claiming Momphard’s actions violated several of her husband’s civil rights, including those protected by the Second and Fourth amendments. Almost five years later, beginning on Feb. 7, the case was heard by a federal jury in Asheville. 

At the heart of the trial were two central questions: Were Momphard’s actions leading up to and after the shooting reasonable? And was Knibbs’ shotgun actually pointed at Momphard at the moment he fired his weapon? 

However, neither of those questions were answered sufficiently for the jury, who after hearing almost two weeks’ worth of evidence couldn’t reach unanimity, and the case was declared a mistrial by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. due to a hung jury. 

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This is the Federal Building in Asheville that houses the U.S. District Court where the trial was heard. Wikipedia photo

A rare trial 

That this trial was even held is rare, as most police involved shooting civil suits are summarily dismissed when the judge finds that the defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. 

In this case, Cogburn originally found that Momphard was entitled to qualified immunity because he’d acted reasonably given the facts of the case, but Melrose was granted an appeal by the Fourth Circuit on the basis that Knibbs had the right to have a loaded firearm in his home as long as he did “not aim the weapon at the officer or otherwise threaten imminent deadly harm.” The opinion also stated that an officer must adequately identify themselves to gain qualified immunity. 

Although the defense petitioned the United States Supreme Court in hopes it would overturn the Fourth Circuit ruling on the basis that “The cases cited by the Fourth Circuit do not clearly establish a Constitutional violation.”

“The Fourth Circuit erred in judging the facts from Knibbs’ vantage and not Deputy Momphard’s perspective,” the petition reads. 

However, the Supreme Court declined to take up the case and it was sent back to Cogburn’s court for trial. 

In interviews with The Smoky Mountain News, attorneys who argue these cases weighed in with their definitions of qualified immunity. Sean Perrin, a partner with Womble Bond Dickinson who typically represents defendants, said two things are considered regarding qualified immunity. First, were one person’s constitutional rights violated by another person acting in their official capacity, whether that’s a police-involved shooting, a false arrest or a jail death? Second, did the officer know they were violating that person’s rights? 

“If you don’t know you violated someone’s rights, how can you be held liable?” Perrin said. “You can’t hold officers responsible for something they didn’t know was unconstitutional.”

Perrin said the Fourth Circuit’s ruling wasn’t as surprising as it may appear since that body tends to look at cases in a “light most favorable to the decedent.”

Carlos Mahoney, a partner at Durham’s Mills and Mahoney Law Firm who represents plaintiffs, said the key to using a qualified immunity defense in a civil suit is that whoever represents the law enforcement officer must be able to argue that the law was not clearly established when the use of force took place. 

Mahoney also helped to interpret the Fourth Circuit ruling, noting that Melrose argued that Cogburn looked at the case wrong and didn’t credit the evidence that shows that the law was clear at that time. 

“There’s just a whole smattering of cases that have been decided in the Fourth Circuit in the past 10 to 15 years that deal with an officer who shoots an individual who has a gun in his possession, and what it boils down to is whether the officer reasonably perceived that the suspect posed a threat to the officer’s safety at the time when the shooting occurred,” Mahoney said. 

He added that in those cases, certain facts come under scrutiny, like whether the gun was raised, what types of warnings were given and what ability the person had to perceive whether the person was a law enforcement officer and why they were there. 

These cases, Mahoney said, are not “prototypical qualified immunity cases.”

“They’re more of a factual dispute as far as what the officer actually perceived at the time he decided to use force and whether individual posed a legitimate threat to his safety,” he said. 

Cogburn made it clear that the Fourth Circuit’s decision left a bitter taste, saying he believed if SCOTUS had heard it, that body would have likely “agreed with the original ruling.”

“I’ve already made my decision in this case,” Cogburn said. 

“The Fourth Circuit said there ought to be a trial, so we’re going to do it,” he added. 

Cogburn also had harsh words for Melrose. 

“We already don’t have any officers in Asheville,” Cogburn said. “I don’t want the Mark Melrose lawsuit fair coming to town suing everyone.”

“Police officers get shot too, but no one talks about that,” he also said. “They talk about the police who shoot.”

When SMN requested transcripts from these brief interactions for the sake of accuracy, the stenographer was informed by Cogburn that she could not provide any transcripts, not even after the trial was over. 

Melrose took exception to Cogburn’s candor. Cogburn told Melrose he can take it up on appeal should he lose. While the mistrial can’t be appealed, should the case get tried again, Melrose can request Cogburn recuse himself based on his expressed bias. 

The fateful night 

Knibbs had been feuding with neighbors in the weeks leading up to the shooting. 

On the night of April 29, 2018, the three 20-somethings who lived in the home up the road, dubbed “the double-wide on the hill,” invited a few friends over to drink some beer and enjoy a small bonfire. 

Knibbs, who was 47 at the time, had a run-in with one of the partygoers who mistakenly pulled into his driveway, becoming angry and kicking the man’s bumper as he drove off. After that, Knibbs put out makeshift speedbumps made of old boards. While there were nails in the boards, testimony revealed they were bent down and that Knibbs’ intention was to slow down people driving too fast on the dirt road and not to damage their vehicles. 

After a woman tried to drive down and encountered the boards, one of the renters living at the double-wide on the hill, Shelton Freeman, called 911 to have a deputy mediate whatever dispute might be coming. In his 911 call, Freeman specifically states there’s no emergency. 

Momphard was dispatched to the scene. He stopped his patrol car when he saw the first set of boards. Although no witnesses could corroborate the next part of his story, he relayed it under oath. Momphard said he went up to Knibbs’ home, thinking it was the complainant’s home and announced “sheriff’s office” twice and knocked on one door. 

The people present in the Knibbs’ home when the shooting occurred said they never heard Momphard’s first round of knocking. 

The deputy noticed the soft glow of the fire up at the double-wide on the hill. He walked up and spoke with Freeman, who said he’d seen the lights go on and off at the Knibbs home as Momphard came up. The two walked back down to the house, and Momphard told Shelton to wait by the patrol car. 

He approached the darkened home. 

Earlier that day, after church, Knibbs and a friend, Jeremy Angel, worked on Angel’s Jeep until dusk. After Angel went home at about 7 p.m., Knibbs continued to work in his shop a few hours longer. He’d tried texting and calling the double-wide on the hill’s owner, Mark Berry, to complain about the tenants. Berry testified that his phone was off, and he didn’t see Knibbs’ attempts at contact until after the shooting. 

“He was upset with the neighbors and said they’d been partying,” Berry said. “He was not happy with the whole situation.”

At about 11 p.m., Knibbs called Angel. 

“They can have their party, but they’ll have to slow down going to it,” Angel testified Knibbs said. 

Knibbs showered and crawled into bed with his wife. They heard a noise outside. 

“Sheriff’s office,” a voice announced.  

“Anyone can say that,” Knibbs said. 

Those were his last words. 

He grabbed the shotgun from behind the bed, racked it, and walked toward the living room. 

Missy heard the outside voice shout “drop the weapon” multiple times, and then came the shots. 

After firing his weapon, Momphard kicked the front door in and reloaded his Glock. He kept it pointed at Knibbs’ body to “cover” him. He told Missy to stay back and keep her hands where he could see them before eventually telling her she could check on her husband. 

“I was screaming my head off,” Missy said. 

Missy wasn’t the only other person in that home that night. Their daughter, Megan, who slept in one room with her infant son and chihuahua, was also present, as was their son Scottie, who was just 13 at the time. Megan said she was awakened by the last shot and left her room once she heard her mom scream. When she came out, she saw her dad lying face down, her mom sitting off to the side and Momphard with his flashlight and gun out. 

“I was confused. I didn’t know what was going on,” Megan said. 

Two deputies arrived within minutes. The first was Matthew Canzone. Now a civilian, Canzone recalled that he’d heard Momphard come over the radio and call a 10-33, which meant shots had been fired. Canzone hit the blue lights and got to the Knibbs home in about four minutes. He went around the house to a back door, heard some screaming and kicked the door down. 

Shortly after Canzone, Corporal Tony Hopkins arrived. Hopkins, now a sergeant, had been working nights the week of the trial and showed up in uniform to testify. 

“As soon as everybody had exited the residence and the scene was secure, we vacated the residence and secured the perimeter,” he said. 

Once Missy and Megan were out of the home, they escorted Scottie out, shielding him from the bloody scene with a “tunnel” made of bed sheets. Missy got the family into her car and drove toward her parents’ house. She said she had a frank conversation with her son, who was still unsure of exactly what had happened. 

“I told him daddy had gotten shot and didn’t live,” she said. 

Before long, Missy was so overcome with shock that she was unable to drive, pulled over and had a friend pick her up.  

A matter of perception 

Most of that narrative was agreed upon by both Melrose and defense attorney Pat Flanagan of Cranfill Sumner, but there was a focused argument on whether Knibbs had his shotgun pointed at Momphard. In addition, both sides theorized why Momphard took the actions he did before and after the shooting. 

During a recorded SBI interview 35 hours after the shooting, Momphard showed raw emotion when recalling the tragic events that led to Knibbs’ death. He felt certain Knibbs was going to shoot him with that shotgun through the front door. He even thought Knibbs intentionally turned off the lights inside and outside the home. 

“This mother f***** was trying to kill me with a shotgun,” he told the SBI agent. 

Missy, who along with Momphard had been sobbing quietly while watching the video, burst into tears and had to leave the courtroom. 

In the video, Momphard described what he saw when he illuminated the living room with his flashlight. 

“I’ve never seen anybody look at me the same way he was looking at me,” he said anxiously, adding that he thought Knibbs would have tried to kill Freeman and any responding deputies. 

Later in the trial, Melrose showed a video deposition he’d conducted with Momphard in Oregon, where Momphard currently serves as a deputy, on Oct. 18, 2019. After graduating high school in 2009, Momphard served seven years in the Marine Corps where he did two tours in Afghanistan. He was a machine gunner the first time around, and the second he was an improvised explosion device detection dog handler. He went out on numerous combat patrols during each tour. 

The deposition shifted from learning about Momphard’s background to Melrose grilling him to try and prove the deputy’s actions the night of the shooting were not objectively reasonable. Melrose questioned why Momphard felt the need to go to Knibbs’ front door at midnight, considering at that point it was just a civil dispute with no obvious criminal infractions. 

“If Mr. Knibbs said he put the boards out there to pop their tires, it’d be a criminal matter, and that’s what I wanted to talk to him about,” Momphard told Melrose in the deposition. 

After hearing Freeman tell him the lights went on and off before he walked up, Momphard decided to talk to whoever was in that home. Melrose asked whether Momphard thought hearing the shotgun rack was probable cause for him to charge Knibbs with a crime. 

“As soon as I announced sheriff’s office and he pumped the shotgun and I told him to drop it and he didn’t drop it, that’s PC,” Momphard said. 

Melrose asked more pointed questions with an aim to understand Momphard’s state of mind that night. He asked why Momphard didn’t use his flashlight as he walked onto the property. Momphard said using the flashlight would have been a “tactical mistake” as it’d give away his position, something he said he first learned as a Marine that was later reiterated in BLET. 

Momphard also didn’t activate his blue lights when he parked his patrol car on Pheasant Drive. During his testimony, Momphard said blue lights weren’t necessary because “there was not an emergency.”

Melrose also called into question Momphard’s actions once he entered the home, asking specifically why he didn’t tend to Knibbs’ injuries. 

“My first responsibility is to secure the scene,” Momphard said. “Had I been able to secure the scene, I could have rendered aid.”

When the defense called Momphard to testify at the civil trial, he again recalled the tragedy that transpired that night. During the cross-examination, Melrose went back to some of the topics he’d covered during the deposition, raising his voice as he attempted to rattle Momphard. Melrose asked if racking the gun itself was an “aggressive act.”

“I was scared,” Momphard said. 

Melrose noted that Momphard had said during the deposition that Knibbs was a right-handed shooter, when other testimony from both those who knew Knibbs and experts said he was a lefty. Melrose used that one misperception to call into question his overall recollection of the night, especially when it came to the central question of whether Knibbs had the shotgun pointed at him or not. 

“If your perception is wrong about the distance and left-versus-right, then are other parts of your perception wrong?” Melrose asked. 

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Attorneys Pat Flannigan (left) and Mark Melrose (right).

A swearing contest 

In trials like this where a few disputed facts could sway a jury one way or another, having strong expert witnesses is a must. In many cases, experts are sworn in by each party who directly contradict each other, meaning the jury must weigh not only which set of facts seem more compelling but also which experts seem most credible. 

Melrose put forward three expert witnesses. First up was John Blum, a law enforcement veteran who specialized in policies and procedures. 

While Cogburn offered instructions to jurors telling them how to consider testimony from the other experts, he omitted that instruction before Blum’s testimony. 

Melrose laid out the narrative of the night Knibbs was shot, which gave Blum a chance to pick apart Momphard’s actions. Melrose was met with frequent objections. Objections during this and other parts of the trial led to dozens of “side bars” where Cogburn would huddle with the attorneys, his legal clerk and the stenographer to hammer out misunderstandings without the jury hearing their conversations. Some of those sidebars looked heated, and although Melrose and his co-counsel mostly put on their poker faces coming out of the sidebars, there were still indications that didn’t agree with whatever was decided in many. 

“It looks like it’s us against the world,” Melrose said to Missy Knibbs after one sidebar. 

Blum discussed what he thought would be appropriate in Momphard’s precarious situation, saying he would have done a “tactical retreat,” meaning he’d back down the steps with his hand on his weapon as he looks for threats in his field of vision then find cover. Blum also talked about how Momphard’s emotions took hold, saying an officer should be able to recognize danger while still making sound decisions. 

“I believe a reasonable officer would not interpret the mere racking of a shotgun as imminent deadly force,” Blum said. 

Next up was Dr. Jonathan Arden, a forensic pathology expert with a lifetime of experience as a medical examiner. Arden talked authoritatively about pseudostippling to frame one of the plaintiff’s key arguments. 

Stippling is the term for marks left on flesh from unburnt gunpowder striking the skin and causing superficial injuries. Pseudostippling is basically the same concept but is caused by another source, such as glass, that when struck by a high-velocity item like bullet creates many smaller projectiles that create patterns of red marks on flesh. Using autopsy photos, Arden testified that the pseudostippling present on Knibbs’ body — especially where it appeared his arm was shielding part of his upper body — indicated he was holding the gun safely with the barrel pointed toward the ceiling. 

He called the location of the right arm a “pledge of allegiance” position. 

The last expert to testify on behalf of the plaintiffs was Hal Sherman, a former NYPD detective who offers opinions on crime scene investigation. While his testimony aided in allowing jurors to have a fuller understanding of the narrative Melrose was putting forward in arguing his case, it also called into question the depth of the SBI’s initial investigation. Along with not taking a gunshot residue sample from the window, which if present could tell investigators how far Momphard was from Knibbs when he shot him, SBI investigators also did no forensic analysis of either of the firearms involved. 

The defense only called one expert to the stand — Rodney Englert, who specializes in crime scene reconstruction. However, first they had to call Cheryl Kanzler, an independent contractor who works with Englert, to talk about her analysis of the crime scene evidence that went into Englert’s report since Englert couldn’t make the trip to North Carolina. 

She laid out the evidence they analyzed that went into the opinion that Knibbs was pointing the gun at Momphard. While she talked about small blood stains and a “glass-like particulate” present on the gun, it was Englert who used that information to form an expert opinion. 

Englert, a world-renowned crime scene reconstructionist has owned his own consulting company since 1979 and said he’d consulted 575 times on death cases and testified as an expert witness over 400 times. Englert conveyed a strong ethos on the stand as he attempted to bolster not only his credibility, but also his integrity. 

“If the evidence is unfavorable to whoever hired us, we’ll let them know,” he told the jury. 

Englert referenced the evidence his team discovered on the shotgun using a ProScope capable of 50-times magnification. First, he noted that the blood stains on the gun were less than 1 millimeter in diameter, indicating a “high-velocity mist” like “out of a hairspray container.” That kind of blood can only come at a short distance caused by blowback when a bullet strikes an artery or other large vein. 

In addition, he said the “glass-like particulate” on the barrel indicated that the muzzle was facing the window. 

“He was holding shotgun in his left hand horizontal and pointed toward the window,” Englert said. 

Melrose pointed out that Englert typically testifies in support of the defense in all the civil cases he’s argued. 

“Yes, probably 90% of the time,” Englert replied. 

Melrose also brought up cases that have ended in Englert getting sued. Even more compelling, he brought up the case of Julie Rea, who after being found guilty of murdering her son in Illinois was eventually exonerated when a serial killer in Texas said he’d committed the crime. Her initial prosecution hinged heavily on Englert’s expert testimony. He denied all allegations and claimed that Wray and the serial killer corresponded prior to his jail-cell confession and said he stands by all his work. 

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Knibbs and his son, Scottie, loved to go down to Florida on fishing on trips. Donated photo

The real Scott Knibbs 

Several of Knibbs’ family and friends testified, not only about the events of that fatal night, but also about the kind of man he was. Cogburn frequently repeated a stern warning throughout the trial regarding testimony from family and friends. 

“If people start weeping up on the stand, we’ll have a problem with that, except for the wife,” Cogburn said. 

“We’re not going to have an emotional testimony party,” he later noted. “We’re going to have regular testimony.”

Cogburn even went as far as to warn the family in the gallery not to show too much emotion since it may unduly sway jurors. 

“I’ll have a real problem about it,” Cogburn said. 

One of the people who testified was Knibbs’ stepdaughter, Ashley Coleman, who was one of the more emotional witnesses throughout the trial. While Knibbs’ son, Scottie, would later testify that they shared a bond over fishing, Coleman shared a different kind of bond with her stepfather. 

“The two of us would go on day trips to ride dirt bikes,” she said. 

Missy remained stoic on the stand. As she and others testified, Melrose showed the jury photos of Knibbs enjoying time with family, fishing in Florida, shooting guns, riding dirt bikes and hunting. 

She said Knibbs moved to Macon County from Ohio to attend Basic Law Enforcement Training school at Southwestern Community College, and that’s when he met her. She said that while a career in law enforcement didn’t work out, he always respected first responders and veterans and would go out of his way to thank them for their service. 

Knibbs spent time as a lineman and traveled to disaster areas to work. He also did a series of odd jobs — as a handyman, a gasoline truck driver, and a septic tank installer — and owned his own tree trimming company for a time. 

“He worked as much as he could to provide,” she said. 

Missy talked about how difficult everyday life has been since the shooting. After selling the house on Pheasant Drive, she and Scottie lived with her parents for a few months before moving into a house they’d owned but had rented out for years. Missy and Megan have been making whatever living they can by cleaning rental homes in Highlands and splitting the proceeds. 

While the loss of income has been hard, Missy said it pales in comparison to losing her partner, her companion. 

“It’s like cutting off your arm,” she said. 

Although he wasn’t on the stand long, Scottie Knibbs, now a senior in high school, talked about things he’d miss out on, especially fishing with his father in Florida. He offered one particularly poignant observation. 

“There are things he never taught me, things I never got to learn,” he said. 

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The courtroom where the emotionally charged trial was heard. Library of Congress photo

A bitter pill 

Scott Knibbs has been dead for almost five years. 

That’s five years his family didn’t know whether they’d get the justice they sought. That’s five years Anthony Momphard wondered if the court would clear his name. Coming into the trial, both sides anticipated putting an end to the most uncertain chapter of this tragic saga. 

But the fact that it didn’t happen wasn’t for a lack of caring on the jurors’ part. 

While only six jurors deliberated — the minimum required by law for these civil trials — there were initially eight selected. Early in the trial, one of those jurors was mistakenly let into the courtroom by a marshal while the judge was discussing certain matters intended to be heard outside the presence of the jury. Another was let go on the last day of the trial because doctors discovered a blood clot in his leg. 

The last thing they heard before they deliberated were the attorneys’ closing arguments. Flanagan was measured in delivering his closing argument and stuck to the evidence to convey what he believed was Momphard’s intent. 

“He didn’t intend to use force,” Flanagan said. “He intended to find out what was going on.”

“Deputy Momphard had a split second to make that decision as he passed that window and saw the barrel of a shotgun,” he added. 

Flanagan also argued that Englert was a far more thorough witness than Melrose’s three experts. Finally, he made a simple emotional plea. 

“Police officers have a right to go home to their families like everyone else,” he told jurors. 

Melrose was more dramatic, first positing that Momphard was “trained to kill” in his time in the Marine Corps but never had the opportunity to transition to being a “peacekeeper” the way he should have before going out alone on patrol. 

He also told the jury Knibbs went from being in bed with his wife to hearing voices outside to being shot, all within about 15 seconds, “because a rookie cop was triggered by a constitutionally protected activity.”

“The mere possession of a firearm is not against the law,” Melrose said. 

Ultimately, Melrose asked the jury to find in favor of the Knibbs family and award them $5.8 million, not only $800,000 for lost wages Knibbs could have brought in over the next 20 years, but also for the family’s “loss of companionship and advice, both spiritual and educational.”

“He was irreplaceable. I’m not asking you to replace him with money. I’m asking you to compensate the family,” Melrose said. 

Closing arguments ended late in the afternoon of Feb. 15. Cogburn gave jurors the option to go home and come back fresh in the morning to receive their instructions or to receive it and begin deliberating right then and there. The jury opted to begin right away, and they were able to deliberate a half-hour before adjourning and returning the morning of Feb. 16. 

When they came in that morning, they were clearly serious. 

“I’ve been thinking and praying about this all night,” one juror said in the hallway to another just before jumping back into deliberations. 

But all the good intentions in the world can’t preclude a righteous deadlock. At about 12:30 p.m. Cogburn received a note saying there was a hung jury. He brought the jurors into the courtroom and read a “dynamite charge” meant to strongly encourage open-minded deliberation in hopes that folks on one side or the other would come around and find unanimity. 

At 2:05 p.m., another note came in. 

“This is going nowhere,” the note read. “In fact, I’d say it’s getting worse. Jury is completely divided, and this is going nowhere at all.”

Cogburn called the jury in and declared a mistrial. When the jurors were dismissed and began heading back to the jury room, some already had tears streaming down their faces.  

“Sometimes even juries that hang lead to resolution down the road,” Cogburn told them. 

In many cases, when a civil jury is deadlocked and a mistrial is called, the plaintiffs and defendants both balk at the notion of expending that tremendous amount of the time, money and emotion again and have more incentive to avoid another trial. 

“My guess is it will settle,” Perrin said, adding that neither expert witnesses nor attorneys come cheap. “It’s a business decision.”

Neither Perrin nor Mahoney were willing to say they’ve observed any notable increase in hung juries in these kinds of civil trials, even amid the heightened political divide. However, Mahoney admitted that the recent prevalence of dash and body cams — neither of which were worn by Macon County deputies at the time of the shooting — as well as cell phone cameras, have decreased the likelihood that jurors will be as predetermined to lean toward favoring law enforcement. 

“I think the view on law enforcement has changed over the last 10 years … it’s harder now because people have a more nuanced view,” Perrin said. 

“Historically, it was hard to get verdicts against law enforcement officers, and that’s changed in the last 10-15 years,” Mahoney said, adding that there have even been large judgments in favor of plaintiffs in the last five years. 

While Flanagan chose to not comment on the record, Melrose spoke briefly. He said the hung jury is frustrating since so many people were so emotionally invested in the case but also that there was a silver lining, considering he was told the jurors were split 4-2 in his favor. 

“It wasn’t the verdict we wanted, but other than two jurors holding out despite what we believed was overwhelming evidence, we were really close to achieving our goal,” he said. “Even though the family is disappointed, they’re ready to retry the case and present it again and believe another jury of fair-minded people would have a more favorable result.”

For all the hubbub surrounding the emotionally charged trial, Retired Macon County Sheriff Robby Holland, who was in that role when the shooting occurred, summed the whole situation up best. While he provided this statement to SMN prior to the trial’s conclusion, he said afterward that it still stands. 

“Although retired as Sheriff and no longer speaking for the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, I remain a strong believer in our system of Justice,” Holland wrote. “In this officer involved shooting case involving one of my former deputies, both sides deserved to have their stories heard. During the last two weeks jurors had an opportunity to listen to all the facts provided before the court. No matter what happens when the jury reaches a verdict, there will be no winners in this case.  It is a tragedy for all parties involved, and in the end, it never had to happen.” 

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