Jurors deadlock again in Vaughn man's murder trial

 


GREAT FALLS — A jury has deadlocked for a second time in the trial of a Vaughn man accused of shooting his friend to death in the summer of 2009.

On Thursday afternoon, seven jurors declared Clay Dunbar not guilty and five said he was guilty of deliberate homicide in the June 9, 2009, death of 45-year-old Kenneth Peterson after a fight at Dunbar's house.

Cascade County Attorney John Parker filed a motion to dismiss the case a few hours after the jurors' announcement.

Prosecutors said Dunbar fired a shotgun as Peterson knocked on the door, seeking permission to get back in the house from the garage. But defense attorney Melody Brown argued that Peterson had badly beaten Dunbar during a fight and was pounding on the door trying to get back in when Dunbar fired the shot in self-defense.

During Dunbar's first trial in October, jurors were unable to decide if he acted in self-defense.

"It's been the hardest two years of my whole life," Dunbar said after the announcement. "The stress, every day you think of it when you wake up and you think of it when you go to sleep. It hasn't even sunk in that it's plum over."

Dunbar's trial tested a state law passed in April 2009 that made it legal for someone to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to defend himself or herself, or an occupied structure. The law also requires prosecutors to prove the defendant's actions were not justified if the defendant claims justified use of force in a homicide trial.


 

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