Hung jury leads to mistrial in Doniphan beating death case

Friday, November 20, 2009

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- A Howell County judge declared a mistrial Wednesday afternoon in the murder trial of a Doniphan, Mo., man accused in the beating death of his neighbor.

After about eight hours of deliberation over two days, the jury deadlocked on whether Eddie Lee Marshall, 48, was guilty of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Heather Michelle Donnell, 25, in April 2007.

After hearing about a day and a half of testimony, the jury began its deliberations at 1:44 p.m. Tuesday, according to Ripley County Prosecuting Attorney Chris Miller. "They deliberated until a little after 5 [p.m.] and broke for dinner," he said. "They started deliberations at 8 a.m. [Wednesday] and broke for lunch at 11:45."

The jurors, Miller said, resumed their deliberations at 1 p.m.

"They announced they were deadlocked at about 2 o'clock," Miller said.

During their deliberations, Miller said, the jury submitted about seven notes and questions to the court, including requests for transcripts of witness testimony and exhibits.

After the jury announced it was hung, Presiding Circuit Judge David Evans declared a mistrial, discharged the jury and set Marshall's case for "docketing in the next law day on Dec. 7."

Since no one talked to any of the jurors, Miller said, it is unknown how they were split on the verdict.

Miller described the outcome as being "about the only unexpected thing" about the trial. He said it was unfortunate that Marshall will have to be tried a second time.

"It's very disappointing," Miller said.

Depending on the amount of publicity about the trial in the West Plains community, Miller said, a change of venue may have to be considered in the future, but "no motions [have been filed] as of yet."

Marshall continues to be held on a $500,000 cash-only bond.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony about how Donnell's badly beaten body was found inside Marshall's trailer by a Ripley County deputy investigating a missing-person report filed by the woman's family April 23, 2007. An autopsy showed Donnell died of blunt force trauma to the head.

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