A New Orleans jury deliberated from Wednesday night until early Thursday morning before acquitting a man in the 2014 killing of a pizza delivery driver in Mid-City.
Shane Hughes, 20, was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Richard “Chris” Yeager, as well as the armed robbery of a woman in her Uptown driveway the day before.
Hughes admitted to being on the scene of both the Uptown stick-up as well as the killing of Yeager. However, he claimed that in each case he ran away just before another youth, Rendell Brown, committed the crime.
Police arrested both boys in the September 2014 killing of Yeager, which happened in the 2800 block of St. Louis Street. The well-liked deliveryman, who also had a job as a French Quarter karaoke DJ, had just dropped off a pizza nearby.
In addition to being shot and left to die, Yeager was robbed of $20 and his car, police said.
Hughes and Brown were both 16 at the time, and both were on electronic ankle monitors in connection with juvenile offenses. Brown pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other counts in March in exchange for a 40-year sentence.
The jury voted 10-2 to acquit Hughes on the murder count. Louisiana is one of two states to allow non-unanimous jury verdicts.
However, the jury deadlocked on another count of armed robbery in connection with the hold-up of Yeager, 35. The Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office said it intends to retry Hughes on that charge.
An electronic ankle monitor and his own admission put Shane Hughes near the site of the killing of a pizza deliveryman in Mid-City four years ago.
Prosecutors told the jury in their closing statement that it was implausible that Hughes just happened to be on the scene of two brutal crimes.
“Ask yourself how he could not have known what was going on, how he could have been a mere bystander? It’s not possible,” Assistant District Attorney Sarah Dawkins said.
Yet Hughes’ defense attorneys said that data from his ankle monitor supported his story. The data suggested that in each case he was more than a block away at the time of the shooting, they said.
“He could not have committed this crime, and he literally was not there at the time the murder took place,” defense lawyer Gregory Carter said. “They literally give a latitude and longitude down to seven digits. That’s not guesswork.”
Criminal District Court Judge Byron C. Williams oversaw the case. He set a May 22 hearing date to confer on the remaining armed robbery charge.
Yeager's killing and the subsequent arrest of two 16-year-olds attracted widespread attention in local media. Carter said he was grateful the jury was able to look past the strong emotions the case generated.
"When you look at the case and realize that the District Attorney’s Office, for four years, has had ankle monitor information that showed my client wasn’t at the scene of the murder at the time it took place … there's no reason he ever should have been in jail, and there's certainly no reason the jury would have come back guilty," he said.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to correct the length of Brown's sentence.
Moments after Rendell Brown pleaded guilty in a New Orleans courtroom Tuesday, Ann Yeager locked eyes with the man accused of killing her son …