After days of deliberations, another mistrial declared in Norman Clark murder retrial

After days of deliberations, a jury ended up deadlocked in the murder retrial of Norman Clark.

KNOXVILLE - UPDATE: Friday, Sept. 21, 2017

A jury was unable to reach a verdict Friday after days of deliberation in the murder retrial of Norman Clark. 

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword declared a mistrial Friday morning shortly after he gave the deadlocked jury a final "dynamite" charge to reach a unanimous verdict.

It's the second time a mistrial has been declared for Clark. A jury in August 2015 said it was "hopelessly deadlocked" and could not come to a final decision.

Kit Rodgers, Clark's defense attorney, said he is relieved but not surprised. 

"This has happened once before," Rodgers said. "It's a tough case for the state, it's a tough case for us." 

The state said it cannot comment on the case because it is still open. 

Judge Sword set a hearing for Oct. 20 for the state to decide what it wants to do with the case.

The family and friends of Brittany Eldridge left the courtroom before they could be reached for a statement. Clark and his family did not make statements when they walked out of the courtroom. 

 

Day-By-Day Timeline of Norman Clark Retrial

 

JURY SELECTION COMPLETED: Monday, Sept. 11, 2017

Jury selection was completed Monday for the retrial of the Knoxville man accused of killing his estranged girlfriend and their unborn child in 2011. 

Norman Clark was charged with the murder of Brittany Eldridge, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant with a son she named Zeke. She claimed the child was Clark's and wanted his support.

The prosecution claimed Clark killed her because he didn't want the baby. The defense said that Clark was wrongfully accused, and there was no DNA evidence tying Clark to the crime scene.

A jury said it was "hopelessly deadlocked" and could not come to a final decision at a trial in August of 2015.

Because the jury could not come to a decision, prosecutors asked that Clark be retried for the same crime.

Dateline NBC has been following this case, and conducted an interview with Clark after the mistrial, which has not yet aired on television. Prosecutors wanted to force Dateline producers to turn over the video, but a judge denied that request last year.

DAY 1 AND OPENING STATEMENTS: Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017

Knox County prosecutors began laying out their proof Tuesday that Norman Clark Jr. killed his girlfriend and their unborn son in December 2011.

This is the second time Clark has been tried in the case. A jury in August 2015 said it was "hopelessly deadlocked" and could not come to a final decision.

Among the state witnesses that prosecutor Leslie Nassios called to testify were the Knox County chief medical examiner and several women who testified they'd had a relationship with Clark in the past few years in an attempt to show his promiscuity.
 
Eldridge was strangled and stabbed with scissors. She was found dead in her Cross Creek apartment off Western Avenue.

 
Eldridge was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time with a baby boy she had named Ezekiel.
 
No one was charged for several years in the homicide, although Clark was an obvious suspect as her boyfriend.
 
Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, chief medical examiner, testified Eldridge's cause of death was strangulation/suffocation with the stabbing as a contributing injury. The baby died of asphyxiation in the womb.
 
Also Tuesday, prosecutors called someone who works for the county emergency management services to testify about a 911 call placed after Eldridge's body was found. 

In the calls, you could hear Eldridge's mother describe the discovery of her body.

 

 

 

 

In opening statements Tuesday morning, the prosecution told jurors no one else who had a reason to kill Eldridge. Clark didn't want the baby, according to the prosecution.

The defense, however, said these had no physical evidence tying Clark to the crime.

"They're going to do everything they can to tie him to this crime and there's absolutely no evidence of it at all," defense attorney Kit Rodgers told jurors.

Judge Steve Sword estimates the trial will take about a week.

DAY 2 OF TESTIMONY INCLUDES CELL PHONE RECORDS: Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017

The second full day of testimony in the Norman Clark murder trial began Wednesday morning.

The state's witness went over work emails between Clark and Eldridge. The pair worked at the same company and that's how they met each other.

This is the second time Clark has been tried in the case. A jury in August 2015 said it was "hopelessly deadlocked" and could not come to a final decision.

No one was charged for several years in the homicide, although Clark was an obvious suspect as her boyfriend.

Wednesday afternoon the jury heard testimony about Norman Clark's cell phone records. 

A TBI agent took the stand as a state's witness. He testified about his investigation of the correspondence between Clark and Brittany Eldridge. He said on Dec. 12, 2011, Clark and Eldridge exchanged some texts in the early evening. In the correspondence, Eldridge asked Clark when he was going to come to her apartment.

The TBI agent testified Eldridge sent four texts to Clark from 8:59 p.m. to 9:59 p.m. telling him she was going to shower, asking why he was ignoring her and then telling him she was going to bed. The fourth text at 9:59 was her last text to Clark. 

Cell phone records show Clark did not respond to Eldridge via text until 7:26 a.m. on Dec. 13. Records show Clark's last activity on his cell phone on Dec. 12 was a text at 9:19 p.m. 

The agent testified three calls from Clark's cell phone pinged Eldridge's cell phone tower during the evening she was killed. 

The TBI agent testified Clark deleted about 1,200 text messages from his phone, 686 of those were correspondence with Eldridge. 

Clark faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony murder. If convicted, he could could face life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

DAY 3 BRINGS EMOTION FROM ELDRIDGE'S MOTHER: Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017

Brittany Eldridge's mother took the witness stand Thursday, telling the jury that her daughter wanted to have a relationship with Norman Clark, the father of her unborn child, but Clark did not reciprocate the interest.

"She tried to get him to be involved. He ... just didn't," Robin Owens, Eldridge's mother, said of Clark, who is on trial for the second time for Eldridge's death.

Clark is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony murder. The jury in his first trial deadlocked and did not return a verdict.

Owens, who had never met Clark in person until Eldridge's death, found her daughter strangled and stabbed to death in her Knoxville apartment in December 2011. 

Owens testified about Eldridge's childhood and education. She also read entries from her daughter's diary, which detailed Brittany's pregnancy, and her struggles with Clark.

The last entry prosecutors showed of Eldridge's diary said, "When you fall in love you risk being hurt."

Owens described the day she found her daughter's body in her apartment as "horrible." She said she ran out of the apartment and called Clark. 

Investigators with the Knoxville Police Department also took the stand Thursday. It was the first time the jury has heard from investigators during the trial.

A KPD officer said when he arrived in Eldridge's apartment, he noticed a lack of forced entry. The lack of force entry is notable since Clark's defense attorneys have raised the possibility of a robbery to explain how Eldridge was killed.

The jury also saw photos investigators took of the crime scene.

DAY 4 PRESENTS POLICE VIDEO: Friday, Sept. 14, 2017

A jury will return Monday to hear the rest of the retrial for Norman Clark.

The 34-year-old is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Brittany Eldridge, and their unborn son in 2011. Prosecutors will continue to present their case against Clark on Monday.

On Friday, jurors watched hours of police video.

Prosecutors showed video of Clark sitting inside a police car on Dec. 13, 2011, the day Eldridge was found dead in her apartment.

A Knoxville Police sergeant took the witness stand to testify that Clark had arrived to the scene from work. The sergeant testified the scene was “chaotic” as family, friends, first responders and media had gathered near the apartment.

The sergeant said he ushered Clark and Eldridge’s mother into police cars for organizational purposes, and to keep them away from the crowd and media.

Police dash cam video showed Clark sitting inside the car for some time. In the video, Clark said that he wasn’t at Eldridge’s apartment the night before, he was at, “Leanne’s house.” Later in the video, when Clark is being driven to the Safety Building for a statement, Clark asks an officer if he’s in trouble, and the officer says he’s not.

During cross examination, Clark’s defense attorneys argued that Clark was treated as a suspect immediately.

“From the moment he got there, he was questioned, and placed … either by a cruiser or in a cruiser, is that fair to say?” Clark’s defense attorney Kit Rodgers asked.

The KPD sergeant responded affirmatively.  

Friday afternoon, the jury watched Clark’s first police interview on Dec. 13, 2011. In this video, Clark told police he believed Eldridge was mad at him because he did not show up to her apartment the night before like he told her he would. He also told police he would cooperate with their investigation.

“Nobody’s telling me anything,” Clark said in the video. “I get put in the back of a car. I understand, I’m a suspect. Ok, that’s fine. But can I at least get some answers?”

Several times throughout the interview, police ask Clark, “Who else could it be?”

Clark responded, “I honestly couldn’t tell you.”

Clark was arrested and charged for Eldridge’s and the unborn baby's deaths in May 2014. 

DAY 5 DEFENDANT'S MOTHER TESTIFIES: Monday, Sept. 18, 2017

The state continued presenting its case Monday morning. 

Norman Clark's mother, Estella Clark, took the stand as the state's witness. She testified that her other son was murdered in 1992 and no one was arrested for it until 2013. 

An FBI agent also took the stand Monday to discuss the cellular analysis of Clark's and Eldridge's phone records. The agent testified about a 'drive test' which means driving around to verify cellular frequency and strength. It showed at what towers the cell phones pinged from and where.

The defense cross-examined the FBI agent on the cell phone tower analysis. The state rested.

Norman Clark said he would not testify. 

The defense presented its only witness, Keith Procter, a TBI forensic special agent.

After his testimony, the defense rested.

Closing arguments will begin Tuesday morning.

DAY 6 CLOSING ARGUMENTS BEGIN: Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017

Closing arguments started at 9:49 a.m. Tuesday without Norman Clark. According to our reporter in the courtroom, it was supposed to begin at 9:30 a.m. but Clark arrived late.

 

 

The state said there are thousands of pieces of evidence and claimed Brittany Eldridge was an unlikely murder victim.

The state argued that something happened when Brittany got pregnant and it put Clark under intense pressure marking the beginning of his life spinning out of control.

 

 

 

 

The state discussed Eldridge "taking control" in late 2011. They said they discussed taking Clark to court and inviting Clark's family to a baby shower. They argued that Clark staged the apartment to look like a burglary and highlighted how personal strangulation is. 

 

 

In closing arguments, the state said Eldridge did not send the text messages reported after the time of her death and that Clark deleted 1,220 texts from his phone, including hundreds from Eldridge. 

The state argued that Clark's phone pinged Eldridge's tower 3 times in a 37 minute period. They said on Dec. 13, Clark never called, but texted, Eldridge. 

 

 

According to the state's argument, Clark's fingerprints were on Eldridge's TV screen which appeared to be moved to the floor by the time investigators found it. 

The state finished their closing argument around 11:40 a.m. The court took a break before the defense started presenting their closing argument.

The defense began its closing arguments around 1:30 p.m. Clark's attorneys said he was treated like a suspect from the moment he arrived at the crime scene. 

The defense said Clark fully cooperated while the police had his phone for hours that day. 

 

 

The defense said that having another child wouldn't affect Clark's life in the least and that he doesn't think with his head. It also iterated that the jury didn't hear from the lead detectives. 

The defense called the murder a screenplay when describing the amount of planning that had to go into it, and asked why someone who planned a murder would leave a fingerprint on a TV. 

 

 

 

The defense finished its closing argument and the state started a rebuttal. The state said there was a lot of investigation going on in the two-and-a-half years before the arrest. 

The state said the fingerprints on the TV were fresh and that it's not a timeline they made up. 

The jury exited the courtroom to begin deliberations around 2:50 p.m. Around 5:20 p.m., the jury said they were retiring for the day, and would resume deliberations Wednesday morning.

DAY 7 FULL DAY OF DELIBERATIONS: Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017

Knox County jurors worked all day Wednesday but produced no verdict in Norman Clark's murder trial. It marked the seventh day of the trial.

They've spent about 10 1/2 hours in deliberations, having gotten the case Tuesday afternoon.

The panel submitted a question to Judge Steve Sword regarding a past child visitation hearing for Clark's child by one of his girlfriends. Information about the hearing had been presented earlier at trial.

Jurors in the case are not sequestered, meaning they can go home for the night. Sword, however, has cautioned them against reading or watching any news coverage of the trial or of discussing what they've heard or think about the case.

The panel is expected to reconvene 9 a.m. Thursday.

Clark is free on bond.

DAY 8 POINTS TO SIGNS OF DEADLOCK: Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017

After 16-and-a-half hours of deliberations spanning three days, a jury of seven women and five men have yet to reach a verdict in the Norman Clark murder retrial. 

The trial will now stretch into a 10th day with the jury returning Friday morning to continue deliberations.

On Thursday, Judge Steven Sword said some jurors asked him if they could continue their deliberations into Saturday. The judge said that's not an option because of the home University of Tennessee football game. 

If the jury's deliberations go past Friday, they will break for the weekend and resume Monday. 

WBIR legal analyst and attorney Don Bosch said if the jury does tell the judge they are deadlocked, he would likely give an Allen charge, which tells the jury to try again. 

"Deliberations in this case are beginning to approach a very long time, which folks who have been around the courthouse for a long time tend to think it's a hung jury or they are having trouble reaching a unanimous verdict," Bosch said.

Clark is charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide and two counts of felony murder in the death of Brittany Eldridge and her unborn child. If convicted, Clark could could face life in prison with the possibility of parole. 

He is currently free on bond.

When she was killed, Eldridge was 8 1/2 months pregnant with a son she named Zeke. She said the child was Clark's and wanted his support.

The prosecution claimed Clark killed her because he didn't want the baby. The defense said that Clark was wrongfully accused, and there was no DNA evidence tying Clark to the crime scene.

A jury said it was "hopelessly deadlocked" and could not come to a final decision at a trial in August of 2015.

Because the jury could not come to a decision last time, prosecutors asked that Clark be retried for the same crime.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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