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Southeast Missouri man convicted of murder after third trial

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- A Howell County jury convicted a Poplar Bluff, Mo., man early Friday morning of killing his father, Ralph Hanna, in November 2003.

The seven-woman and five-man jury deliberated a total of about nine hours before convicting Shawn Curtis Hanna, 31, of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the Nov. 16, 2003, shooting death of his 56-year-old father.

The elder Hanna, who owned a vehicle repair shop in Poplar Bluff, was shot once as he was returning to his Ellsinore, Mo., home from an early morning hunting trip.

An autopsy showed Ralph Hanna died instantly from a single gunshot wound to the left side of his chest from a high-velocity bullet.

After hearing from multiple witnesses for the state and one for the defense, the jury began deliberating at about 3:45 p.m. Thursday and returned with its verdict between 10:30 and 11 p.m., according to a court official.

When Presiding Circuit Judge David Evans polled the individual jurors as to their verdict, one of the jurors reportedly said "no" when asked if guilty were her verdicts on the murder and armed criminal action charges.

Evans reportedly sent the jurors back to the jury room to continue deliberating. At about 1 a.m. Friday, the court official said, the jury came back with the same guilty verdicts.

Shawn Hanna's trial was set to resume Friday morning for a penalty phase; however, it did not.

Since the state was not seeking the death penalty, the only possible punishment Shawn Hanna could receive on the murder charge was life imprisonment without probation or parole. The armed criminal action charge carries a minimum of three years in prison.

When the defense wouldn't waive a "sentencing trial" on the armed criminal action charge, the court official said, the state dismissed that charge.

Evans revoked Shawn Hanna's bond and set his sentencing for 1 p.m. Feb. 25.

Most of the evidence presented by Assistant Attorney General Kevin Zoellner during the trial was similar to what was introduced during Shawn Hanna's earlier trials in Carter County, both of which ended in hung juries.

"It was pretty much the same trial," Zoellner said. "We didn't call the same witnesses (but) most of the evidence was essentially the same."

The jurors, he said, heard testimony from the first responders on the scene, as well as neighbors of Ralph Hanna, who lived on Route N at Ellsinore with his wife, Denise.

Zoellner said the jury also heard evidence concerning the motivation for this crime, which revolved around the debts that Denise Hanna, Shawn Hanna and another son, Phillip Hanna, had incurred unbeknownst to Ralph Hanna.

"What was presented besides that [financial evidence was] Gary Brady at Bootheel Buggy," Zoellner said. "[He testified that] two weeks before murder, Shawn came in and used his mom's credit card to pay for repairs" totaling $1,089.

Also testifying for the state was Cattleya Bradbury, Shawn Hanna's half-sister.

Her testimony, according to Zoellner, surrounded letters she received from her brother, who was in jail shortly after being charged with the murder.

At that time, Zoellner said, Bradbury didn't believe her brother had killed their father. She read Shawn Hanna's letters, but put them away and forgot about them for years.

Bradbury, Zoellner said, came across the letters a couple of years ago, sometime after her brother's second trial in 2006 and around the time of her stepmother's trial in 2007. Although the letters couldn't be used in Denise Hanna's trial, Zoellner said, officials had the handwriting examined and confirmed they were written by Shawn Hanna.

"In one of the letters, he confessed," Zoellner said. "He tells her he's sorry for what happened. He tells her one day he hopes she can truly forgive him."

In addition, Zoellner said, Shawn Hanna wrote about hoping to get out of jail and being able to marry Kristin Eads, who was then his girlfriend, so he could "give (Bradbury) a sister … it's the least I can do, and I hope to make bond so I can live a little bit of life before I go to jail and get the punishment I deserve."

The defense's argument, Zoellner said, was that "some hunter" accidentally shot Ralph Hanna.

The only defense witness was Ernie Wells, the current homeowner of Ralph Hanna's former property, Zoellner said. "[He] basically testified about the terrain surrounding the place where Ralph was murdered," he said.

When Shawn Hanna is sentenced in February, he will join his mother in prison.

Denise Hanna is serving a life sentence, plus 10 years, after being convicted of second-degree murder and armed criminal action by a Carter County jury.

"With this trial and Denise Hanna's trial, the people who plotted, planned and executed Ralph Hanna have been brought to justice," said the prosecutor handling the case.

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How does that count as double jeopardy? He was not found not guilty then charged again for the same crime.

I copied this from the following site:


A hung jury or deadlocked jury is a jury that cannot, by the required voting threshold, agree upon a verdict after an extended period of deliberation and is unable to change its votes due to severe differences of opinion

In the United States, the result is a mistrial, and the case may be retried. Some jurisdictions permit the court to give the jury a so-called Allen charge, inviting the dissenting jurors to re-examine their opinions, as a last ditch effort to prevent the jury from hanging. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure state, "The verdict must be unanimous...If there are multiple defendants, the jury may return a verdict at any time during its deliberations as to any defendant about whom it has agreed...If the jury cannot agree on all counts as to any defendant, the jury may return a verdict on those counts on which it has agreed...If the jury cannot agree on a verdict on one or more counts, the court may declare a mistrial on those counts. A hung jury does not imply either the defendant's guilt or innocence. The government may retry any defendant on any count on which the jury could not agree."[4]

Juries in criminal cases are generally, as a rule, required to reach a unanimous verdict, while juries in civil cases typically have to reach a majority on some level. In jurisdictions giving those involved in the case a choice of jury size (such as between a six-person and twelve-person jury), defense counsel in both civil and criminal cases frequently opt for the larger number of jurors. A common axiom in criminal cases is that "it takes only one to hang," referring to the fact that, in some cases, a single juror can defeat the required unanimity.

If a defendant has been found guilty of a capital offense (one that, because of aggravating factors like rape during a premeditated murder, could result in the death penalty if the person is eligible- over 18 at the time of the offense and not Intellectually disabled), then the opinion of the jury must be unanimous if the defendant is to be sentenced to death.

One proposal for dealing with the difficulties associated with hung juries has been to introduce supermajority verdicts. This measure would allow juries to convict defendants without unanimous agreements amongst the jurors. Hence, a 12-member jury that would otherwise be deadlocked at 11 for conviction and 1 against, would be recorded as a guilty verdict for the defendant. The rationale for majority verdicts usually includes arguments involving so-called 'rogue jurors' who unreasonably impede the course of justice. Opponents of majority verdicts argue that it undermines public confidence in criminal justice systems and results in a higher number of individuals convicted of crimes they did not commit. Currently two states, Oregon and Louisiana, do not require unanimous verdicts in criminal cases

-- Posted by joekool on Sat, Dec 18, 2010, at 3:59 PM

This was definitely not a case of double jeopardy. In fact, the accused actually has the advantage. Once they are declared innocent, they cannot be recharged even if they stand right outside of the courthouse door and tell reporters they committed the crime. The prosecutor doesn't get a second chance. However, if someone is convicted, they can tie up the court system and cost taxpayers tons of money through appeals.

-- Posted by pmiinch on Sat, Dec 18, 2010, at 4:56 PM

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