Jury deadlocks in tangled Harvest drug dealer robbery, murder, retrial set for November 30

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Elante D. Stewart (Photo: Madison County Sheriff's Office)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The jury in a Madison County murder case announced this morning it was deadlocked after more than a day of deliberations and the judge ordered a mistrial.

Prosecutors said this morning they plan to retry Elante Deangelo Stewart, who was charged with two other men in the October 2012 shooting death of a man in Harvest.

Stewart, 22, whose trial began Monday, was accused of being the mastermind behind a plan to rob Corey Murray in Harvest. Stewart planned to buy marijuana from Murray, but a struggle ensued and another shot Murray, causing a fatal wound.

The robbery and shooting occurred outside a home on Beaconcrest Circle on Oct. 28, 2012.

Stewart’s attorney, Robert Tuten, argued Stewart drove out to Harvest with the sole intention of buying marijuana from Murray. He had no idea of a plan to rob him and did not shoot Murray, Tuten said.

Stewart was charged with murder along with Deonte Marquis McCray and Deshaun Reheem Smith. All three men were set for trial Monday. But Smith reached a plea agreement with prosecutors Friday and will face sentencing of two-to-20 years in prison on a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Madison County Assistant District Attorney Maggie Wallace said McCray, who is the alleged shooter in the case, entered a guilty plea Monday to murder. He faces up to life in prison and the plea was blind, Wallace said, meaning he was given no assurance of a possible sentence recommendation by prosecutors.

Both men testified for the prosecution during the trial that began Monday.

Wallace said Stewart hatched the plan to rob Murray. The three men would ride together and Stewart would go buy marijuana from Murray, and then introduce the other two men.

After Stewart bought the marijuana, the two men approached.

McCray pulled a gun, Wallace said, then Murray began to struggle with Smith. McCray then shot him once in the buttocks. Wallace said the wound led to internal bleeding and, despite Murray’s being attended to almost immediately by an EMT who lived near the scene, Murray died a few moments later.

Wallace said Stewart drove the men to and from the scene and all three divided up Murray’s money and drugs.

Tuten said it was revealed during cross-examination that McCray had previously been charged once or twice with robberies of drug dealers.

The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon and spent all day Wednesday in deliberations. This morning, after about an hour’s deliberations they told the court they were deadlocked. Wallace said the attorneys were told it was a 7-5 split — and had been that way each time the jury had voted — but whether the small majority favored guilt or acquittal was not announced.

The case was heard by retired Madison County Circuit Judge Jim Smith. Wallace prosecuted it with Madison County Assistant DA Paul Barnett.