DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – District Judge Raquel Jones declared a mistrial Friday afternoon, Nov. 19 in the capital murder trial of Billy Chemirmir.
The hung jury, which started deliberating Thursday afternoon, said earlier in the day it was “hopelessly deadlocked.”
The panel made the declaration in their third note of the morning to the judge.
After District Judge Raquel Jones sent a note back to the jury room explaining to those inside what their duty was and urging them to continue deliberations, the group continued their debate and during their lunch break sent the third note telling the court there had been “no change.”
In a series of notes to the court Friday, the 12 jurors said they were “hopelessly deadlocked 11 to one” over the case. It was not clear what verdict the majority of jurors supported.
Jones initially resisted declaring a mistrial, repeatedly ordering the jury to continue deliberation.
After the decision, family of the women Chemirmir is accused of killing spoke outside the courtroom, which they’d been prohibited from entering during the trial as a COVID-19 precaution.
They expressed frustration with the mistrial, anger with the juror they saw as a hold out against conviction and hope for a different outcome in another case against Chemirmir in Fort Worth.
Chemirmir’s attorneys rested their case without calling any witnesses or presenting evidence, and the 48-year-old didn’t testify in his own defense.
They dismissed the evidence against their client as “quantity over quality” and asserted that prosecutors had not proved Chemirmir’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
At 2:20 p.m. Friday, Judge Jones urged jurors, “Do not violate your conscience, but continue to deliberate.”
She went on to say, “A considerable amount of time and effort has been expended in bringing this case before when you arrive in the jury room. It is your duty to consult with one another to consider each other’s views…”
Chemirmir was on trial for the murder of Lu Thi Harris in her Dallas home.
After about an hour behind closed doors on Thursday, the jury light came on and it was learned they sent a note indicating a single juror was holding up a decision in the case.
Judge Jones took everything into consideration and then said, “I’m inclined to send back. Please continue your deliberations. Period.”
Less than a hour later the light came on again and after some time was read with the deadlocked declaration. Lawyers for Chemirmir immediately asked for a mistrial but the motion was denied.
The jury began deliberations around 3:45 p.m. on Thursday and by 7:45 p.m., they decided to stop for the night.
The defense team requested the group be sequestered. The judge denied the request.
Chemirmir faced life in prison without parole. Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.
Chemirmir was arrested in March 2018 after 91-year-old Mary Annis Bartel survived an attack by a man who forced his way into her apartment at a senior living community in Plano.
The man told her “don’t fight me” as he tried to smother her with a pillow and left with jewelry.
When police tracked Chemirmir to his nearby apartment the next day, he was holding jewelry and cash.
A jewelry box police say he had just thrown away led them to a Dallas home, where Harris was dead in her bedroom, lipstick smeared on her pillow.
After his arrest, authorities announced they would review hundreds of deaths, signaling the possibility that a serial killer had been stalking older people.
Over the following years, the number of people Chemirmir was accused of killing grew to at least 18.
Most of the victims were killed at independent living communities for older people, where Chemirmir allegedly forced his way into apartments or posed as a handyman.
He’s also accused of killing women in private homes, including the widow of a man he had cared for in his job as an at-home caregiver.
Chemirmir’s attorney called the evidence against their client circumstantial.