Shane Hughes

Shane Hughes

A New Orleans jury voted 10-2 Thursday to acquit a man of the final charge linked to the killing of a Domino’s pizza delivery driver in 2014, according to defense attorneys.

Shane Hughes, 21, was acquitted on a charge of armed robbery connected to the robbery and fatal shooting of Richard “Chris” Yeager in Mid-City in September 2014.

Hughes was 16 at the time, and the case became emblematic of concerns about youth violence in New Orleans. Those concerns have re-emerged with a surge in juvenile arrests from 2016 to 2018.

A separate jury last year acquitted Hughes of second-degree murder in Yeager’s death. But that jury deadlocked on the robbery count, leading to the trial this week.

Police said an electronic ankle monitor that Hughes was wearing after a prior arrest placed him near the scene of the robbery and killing of Yeager in the 2800 block of St. Louis Street along with Rendell Brown, who was also a 16-year-old student at Cohen College Prep.

Brown pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other counts in March 2018 in exchange for a 40-year sentence.

At Hughes' trial last year, prosecutors said there was no way that it could have been a coincidence that Hughes was at the scenes both of Yeager’s killing and of the armed robbery of a woman in her Uptown driveway a day earlier.

But Hughes insisted that he walked away just before Yeager was shot dead. Defense attorneys Gregg Carter and Sarah Chervinsky told the jury that tracking data from the ankle monitor supported that assertion.

After this week's verdict, Carter said the recent publicity over juvenile crime worried him ahead of the trial. But he was always convinced of his client's innocence, he said.

“It's clear that this boy didn't do it. He's guilty of choosing bad friends, but he's not guilty of armed robbery,” Carter said.

Carter criticized District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro for prosecuting Hughes in adult court.

“Shane was 16 when he got arrested. He spent five years in jail before he even got a chance to clear his name,” Carter said. “He should have always been a witness, at best.”

Hughes has no more charges outstanding, Carter said, and he was no longer listed on the jail roster as of Friday evening.

The District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Yeager’s family sat in the courtroom of ad hoc Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Dennis Waldron throughout the trial. Yeager, 35, was a popular karaoke DJ in the French Quarter who originally hailed from Huntsville, Alabama.

Hughes' case was a rare instance in which Louisiana's unusual law allowing less than unanimous jury verdicts worked to a defendant's benefit. In every state but Oregon and Louisiana, convictions and acquittals must be unanimous.

Since most cases end in convictions, the rule requiring only a 10-2 vote by the jury simply lowers the bar for the state in most cases.

Louisianans last year voted overwhelmingly to change the law and require unanimous verdicts in future cases. However, the new rule will apply only to trials of crimes committed after Jan. 1, 2019.


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.