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Mistrial Declared in Homeowner’s Manslaughter, Assault Trial

December 16, 1993 GMT

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ A mistrial was declared today after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked in the manslaughter trial of a homeowner who shot two teen-ager thieves in the back after they broke into his garage.

″The court finds there is no reasonable possibility of agreement,″ Durham Superior Court Judge J.B. Allen said. Jurors said they remained deadlocked at 8-4 - without specifying which side had the more votes.

Michael Seagroves, 37, was charged with voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon in the March 18 shooting that killed Jamal Elliott, 15, and wounded a 17-year-old.

A decision a new trial won’t be made until early next year, prosecutors said.

The trial began Nov. 29 and jurors had been deliberating since Monday. Jurors told the judge they had been split by the same margin since the beginning.

Prosecutor Bill Farrell had argued that the law says excessive force can’t be used in defending one’s home. Defense lawyer Bill Thomas said courts have ruled that a homeowner is allowed to use reasonable force to protect himself and his home.

Prosecutors said the teens, admitted thieves, were running away when he opened fire with a .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle. The defense has contended Seagroves was terrified and within his rights. Two other teens escaped without injury.

The shooting led to anger in the black community because the victims were black and the Seagroves is white.

A conviction would have carried a maximum sentence of 20 years for manslaughter and 10 years for assault.