After an impasse earlier in the day, a Travis County jury came to an agreement Wednesday evening and acquitted a man accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend’s brother over a social media dispute.
The seven women and five men judging defendant Jabari Mitchell returned the not guilty verdict after two days of deliberations spanning more than 13 hours.
Mitchell, 26, was on trial for two weeks for the fatal shooting of Trelin Reed, who was struck by 13 gunshots while sitting in a Ford Explorer at a North Austin convenience store in November 2016.
After the verdict was read, Mitchell turned and hugged his lawyer, Amber Vazquez.
“This entire situation has been a tragedy and I’m glad it has come to an end,” Vazquez said. “I am glad an innocent man was acquitted.”
The men had arranged to fight on the night of the murder after feuding over a nasty break-up between Mitchell and Reed’s sister. Mitchell had accused the woman, Brea Murphy, of vandalizing his vehicle. He responded by posting a video on Facebook of her performing a sexual act on him. That prompted Murphy to post a video of Mitchell performing a sexual act on her.
The fight never happened. Mitchell directed Reed to various restaurants and gas stations, but kept changing his mind after encountering large groups of people, prosecutors said. Mitchell said he would be arriving “one deep,” meaning alone.
Prosecutors said Mitchell then instructed Reed to drive to a Mobil station at the corner of Interstate 35 and East St. Johns Avenue. When Reed arrived, an unidentified person began shooting at the Explorer through a missing plank in a privacy fence. Surveillance video from the store picked up the shooting, but not the shooter.
Another person in the car drove Reed to the hospital where he died.
Mitchell faced five to 99 years in prison on the murder charge. He also was acquitted on two counts of aggravated assault; two people who were with Reed at the store also were wounded.
Hours before the verdict was read, the jury signaled to the court that they had reached an impasse after about 10 hours. That prompted District Judge Clifford Brown to call them into the courtroom and encourage further discussion. Had they not reached an agreement, Brown likely would have declared a mistrial.
In closing arguments Tuesday, Vazquez accused Austin police of not looking into other possible suspects. She suggested the shooting might have been related to a robbery that Reed admitted to committing earlier in the day in Wells Branch. An alleged witness to the shooting spoke with police and described the shooter as Hispanic, Vazquez said. Mitchell is black.
By the time Mitchell spoke with police the next day, detectives had already prepared an affidavit for his arrest, Vazquez said.