Jury Deadlocked on Murder Charge in Surber Trial
By KRISTAN KORNS and ALLIE HOSTLER
Jurors in the trial of Jackson Earl Surber remained deadlocked on count one – murder in the second degree – on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012, after a week of deliberations.
Surber was on trial for the killing of Willow Creek resident Darrell Hanger, and seven other related charges, including attempted murder for the shooting of Ryan Hanger.
The death of Darrell Hanger and the wounding of his son Ryan Hanger happened during a confrontation on May 5, 2011 in the carport and driveway of Ryan Hanger’s home.
According to Surber’s testimony, he and three companions had returned to Hanger’s home after burglarizing it the day before, intending to take more items from what they thought would be an unoccupied house.
But the Hangers had come home. found the home burglarized, and confronted Surber and his companions when they returned.
The confrontation turned into a shootout. Darrell Hanger was killed and his son Ryan Hanger was wounded. Surber was also wounded, along with one of his companions, Bruce Jason Stallings-Hunsucker.
The jury entered the courtroom at 9:10 am on Tuesday, Aug. 14, after deliberating for a week. They were deadlocked 6-6 on the murder charges, and 10-2 on the attempted murder charges.
Judge Bruce Watson quickly sent the jury back to the jury room to try to reach a verdict on counts one and two.
A little over two hours later, the jury returned to the courtroom, and announced that they had reached a decision on count two.
The jury found Surber not guilty of attempted murder, but guilty of the lesser charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter for the shooting of Ryan Hanger.
Surber was also found guilty of first degree residential burglary, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of a firearm by a felon, and possession of ammunition by a felon.
He was found not guilty of the unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle.
The vote on the murder charge had swung from 6-6 to 11-1, but remained deadlocked.
Judge Bruce Watson declared a mistrial on the murder charge, thanked the jurors, and dismissed them just before noon.
Judge Watson said that the prosecution and the defense will meet again in Courtroom One on Aug. 27, at 2 pm, to discuss sentencing for the counts that Surber was found guilty of, and decide what will be done about the mistrial on the murder charges.
Barbara Madaras, who was Juror Seven during the trial, said that there was disagreement in the jury room over whether or not the shootings could be called self defense.
“Most of us agreed that it went beyond self-defense,” she said, “But one believed it was imperfect self-defense.”
Madaras also said that the single juror who held out on the murder verdict didn’t feel the prosecution had proved Surber’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that piecing together what had happened was difficult for everyone on the jury.
“There were only two immediate witnesses,” Madaras said. “And there were parts of both witnesses’ testimonies that didn’t seem to hold up. There are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
She said she was impressed by how each of the jurors did their best, but deliberations were difficult for everyone because there were some strong personalities that weren’t all on the same page.
“It’s sad, all of the suffering of both families – the victims and the people involved,” Madaras said. “The chain of suffering is huge and everybody suffers.”