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Jury begins deliberations in Roberts murder trial

Closing arguments made Thursday

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Keith Jerome Roberts (left) and his attorney, Dwight L. Thomas, wait in a Clayton County Superior Courtroom Thursday, while jurors deliberate whether he was guilty of the 2006 murder of Morehouse College student Carlnell Walker.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Keith Jerome Roberts (left) and his attorney, Dwight L. Thomas, wait in a Clayton County Superior Courtroom Thursday, while jurors deliberate whether he was guilty of the 2006 murder of Morehouse College student Carlnell Walker.

Jurors weighing whether Keith Jerome Roberts was involved in the 2006 murder of Morehouse College student Carlnell Walker were stuck at a “standstill” Thursday after approximately three hours of deliberations, a Clayton County Superior Court judge announced.

Judge Deborah Benefield announced the jury’s impasse to prosecutors and defense attorneys at 5 p.m. She said the jury was split 10-2 on one of the seven counts Roberts has been charged with. She added, however, that they did not specify which count they were stuck on, and she did not say whether the panel was leaning towards a verdict of “Guilty,” or “Innocent,” on that count.

The counts pending against Roberts include: Malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment and three counts of aggravated assault. Walker died sometime between late June 2006, and early July 2006, after he was stabbed, beaten, bound with cable cords, doused with lamp oil, and then placed in the trunk of his car, where he died from hyperthermia.

Benefield gave the panel the option of continuing deliberations into the evening, or taking a break for the evening, and resuming their work Friday morning.

“They decided to take their evening break, so we’ll recess until 9 a.m. [Friday],” Benefield later told the attorneys.

The deliberations began Thursday, after a morning of closing arguments where prosecutors and defense attorneys accused each other of trying to get jurors to take them at their word as to whether Roberts is guilty or innocent.

Defense attorney Dwight L. Thomas said prosecutors provided no proof that definitively showed his client was involved in the 2006 murder of Morehouse college student Carlnell Walker, other than a finger print found on a glass globe from an oil lamp at the crime scene. He pointed out that no prosecution witnesses testified that they saw Roberts at Walker’s home, participating in the murder.

“Their whole argument has been ‘Take my word [because] I have no evidence, and I have no proof, so just take my word,’ ” Thomas told jurors. He later added “[Roberts] is innocent. In our nation, and our state, reasonable doubt can exist by not having enough evidence to satisfy your minds.”

Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers countered, however, with criticism of inconsistencies in testimony offered Wednesday by Andrew Roberts, Keith Roberts’ younger brother. Prosecutors presented a former Clayton County investigator, on Thursday, whose testimony impeached a portion of Andrew Roberts’ testimony about being in Georgia when Walker died.

Andrew Roberts had testified that he returned to Georgia, from Virginia, in May 2006. Former Clayton County Police Investigator Mike Harris testified that the younger Roberts told him, at the time of his brother’s arrest in late-July 2006, that he had returned from Virginia five days earlier. Harris left the police department in 2007, to work for the Clayton County District Attorney’s Office. He retired last year.

Andrew Roberts had also testified that he and his brother were friends with Walker, but prosecutors repeatedly pointed out that he did not tell anyone about that friendship, until late in the trial — six years after his brother was arrested for the murder.

“He [Andrew Roberts] wants you to believe what he says from the same mouth that he lied through,” Powers told jurors during her closing arguments.