HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – A Madison County jury has found a former teacher’s aide guilty of first-degree sodomy.
The jury returned with the verdict in Michael Horton’s trial just before lunchtime Friday. Jurors had deliberated for nearly two days.
WHNT News 19’s Kristen Conner reports Horton appeared confused, looking at the jury quizzically as the foreman read the verdict. His attorney immediately asked for a pre-sentencing investigation.
Horton’s family cried as the verdict was read. His wife, Pauletta Horton, said her husband is innocent. She said their family is devastated, adding that they always try to help others but it backfired here.
Horton sat doubled over in a chair, appearing emotional and holding tissues. He was put in handcuffs and taken to the Madison County Jail, where he will be held until his sentencing date.
Prosecutors said the jury made the right decision, and justice was served.
Jurors deadlocked earlier
Earlier Friday, jurors said they were stuck, and couldn’t reach a verdict. The judge urged them to continue deliberating, using what’s commonly referred to as the “Dynamite Charge.” The 12 were handed the case Wednesday afternoon.
Jurors came in the courtroom Friday at 10 a.m. to say they could not reach a unanimous verdict. Judge Dennis O’Dell said it’s the jury’s duty to do their best and be fair, and work to reach a verdict. Jurors took a short break and then returned to the jury room.
Horton was accused of sexually abusing a child who was in his care. It had been nearly five years since his arrest in 2009, with the alleged abuse happened in 2008.
Prosecutors say Horton was taking care of the child, who was entrusted to him by the mother. When she began noticing behavioral changes in her child, she took the victim back to live with family.
Defense attorneys counter that this is a story concocted by the child’s family, and Horton is innocent.
The case was delayed several times, due to numerous circumstances. It’s taken years to get to the point where it’s finally in a jury’s hands.
Horton used to work at Providence Elementary.