Saturday, June 30, 2001

Mistrial ends dorm-fire case

Acquittal vote 10-2 after four hours

By Kimberly Hefling
The Associated Press

        HOPKINSVILLE — Jurors deadlocked in the trial of a former Murray State University student charged in a fatal dormitory fire, and the judge declared a mistrial Friday night.

        Jurors deadlocked 10-2 in favor of acquittal after deliberating less than four hours in the case of Jerry Walker, 25, of Mayfield, juror Jim Ausenbaugh said. Mr. Walker was being tried on charges of murder, arson and assault in the 1998 fire that killed one student, Michael Minger, 19, of Niceville, Fla., and injured another.

        Mr. Walker had tears in his eyes after the hearing. “I'm glad it's this way,” he said. “I just wish the other two (jurors) had gone the same way.”

        Mr. Walker's lawyer, Dennis Null, said the defense was pleased. It will be up to the prosecution whether to retry the case, Mr. Null said, adding “we would not consider any type of plea agreement” because his client is innocent.

        Special prosecutor Jay Wethington of Owensboro left the courthouse immediately after the mistrial was announced and could not be reached for comment.

        Mr. Minger's mother, Gail Minger, testified Thursday in the case.

        “I don't have a comment, I'm speechless, it's beyond words,” she said after Friday's verdict.


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