Defense makes late ‘heat of passion’ argument before mistrial declared in case of 16-year-old’s killing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After almost five hours of deliberation, a jury couldn’t reach a verdict in the trial for Shaetavia Cooper.

Cooper is facing a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of 16-year-old Teneria McClendon.

The judge could only give the jury a recommendation as to what to do about their verdict but ultimately, we may never know why they couldn’t reach an agreement.

Eleven witnesses took the stand during the trial, including Cooper. Attorneys played the video that showed the shooting repeatedly.

MORE: Video takes center stage in trial for woman accused of shooting 16-year-old during argument in front of Westside gas station

But the six-person jury still couldn’t reach a decision.

“To me, it’s bogus. This family has suffered for too long and they got us here all night and the jury can’t come to a decision,” said Junior Cummings, a McClendon relative.

After three hours of deliberating, the jury sent Judge Tatiana Salvador this note saying, “We are not all on the same page on a verdict. Suggestions?”

“I want you to go back into that jury room, then taking, turns tell each of the other jurors about any weakness of your position. After you have done that if you simply cannot reach a verdict return to the courtroom and I will declare the case mistrial,” Salvador said.

An hour later, they came back hopelessly deadlocked.

The jury was thrown a curveball late in the game.

After the first closing argument, the defense requested “heat of passion” be added to the jury instruction which attorney Randy Reep said could get Cooper a lesser charge.

“Heat of passion asks to mitigate the guilt of somebody to reduce the severity of what they’ve done. And it’s because their thought process, in theory, was never interrupted by a cool calm thought. The entire thing was at a raised intensity,” said Reep, who is not affiliated with the case.

Prosecutors argued Cooper was angry during the shooting which the defense said was the tiny feeling of the heat of passion. Reep doesn’t think the timing of this was a defense strategy.

“Typically, the case drives the jury instructions, not the other way around,” Reep said. “Now, would it have changed how they did their [first closing argument]? They get two, would it have changed it? I think very likely.”

There could now be a new jury and a new trial.

“You’ll see the prosecution hone in on the parts that weren’t really worked well for them,” Reep said. “They’ll look for the parts in their cases that were harmed during the testimony and try to minimize those.”

Reep said they likely know what people are going to say in the new trial so there may be some room for the parties to negotiate.

A pretrial conference is set for Feb. 15.

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