What to Know
- Jurors in the murder trial of former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver began deliberations just before 12 p.m. Monday.
- Oliver shot and killed Jordan Edwards as the 15-year-old was in a car full of unarmed teenagers when they left a party in April 2017.
- If the jury can't come to a unanimous decision on the murder charge, they may consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.
After deliberating for several hours Monday, the jury hearing the case against Roy Oliver for the 2017 murder of Jordan Edwards could not come to a verdict.
Jurors will resume deliberations Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Oliver, a former Balch Springs police officer, is also facing two counts of aggravated assault for shooting into a car full of five unarmed teens last April. One of the teens, a front seat passenger, was 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. He was shot in the back of the head and died at the scene.
On April 29, 2017 Oliver and a second officer, Tyler Gross, were breaking up a large teenage house party when they heard shots outside. Prosecutors said those shots came from another group who pulled into a nearby nursing home parking lot and left.
When the officers, investigated the shots fired, they confronted a vehicle leaving the house party. The vehicle was not involved in the original shooting and the teens inside were unarmed. Body camera footage showed Officer Gross tried to stop the vehicle before Oliver fired into it, killing Edwards.
Oliver's defense said he used deadly force because he believed the driver was trying to run over another officer at the scene. During the trial Officer Gross, testified he did not believe his life was in danger.
In closing arguments late Monday morning, attorney Bob Gill told the jury it should base its verdict on what Oliver knew at the time of the shooting and not what the jury knows now.
"It doesn't matter that looking back on it, in hindsight, we'd all make a different decision now," Gill said. "We have to look at it how Roy Oliver saw it at the time and what he saw was a significant threat to his partner."
"We can look at it, back at it now and think Roy wasn't even right," Gill told jurors. "It doesn't matter. Roy has a right to defend Tyler Gross against a perceived danger, against an apparent danger even if it wasn't a real danger as long as that's what he reasonably believed at the time he made the decision."
Prosecutors countered Oliver made up his mind to shoot into the vehicle before confirming if there was a threat. Prosecutors said it took nine seconds from the time Oliver retrieved his rifle to firing the first shot. Mike Snipes paused to show the jury how long it takes for nine seconds to pass, pointing out it would have been enough time for Oliver to confirm there was a threat before he shot into the car.
George Lewis, with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, told the jury Oliver did not make the right decisions that night to protect the community.
"They go out, they sacrifice, put their life on the line to protect us and keep us safe. To protect and to serve," Lewis said. "But keep in mind that is their duty to protect and to serve. When we have police officers like the defendant, in this case Roy Oliver, who go out and they hurt our citizens, that's where it stops. That's where it must stop and you, as the jury, in these cases today have a say in stopping defendants like Roy Oliver."
The defense urged jurors to look at the circumstances the way Roy Oliver would have seen them the night of the shooting. Gill said it's an officer's priority to protect fellow officers.
"You have to have in your mind that you're there to protect the public, but most of all your foremost duty is to your partner," Gill told jurors.
Prosecutor Mike Snipes closed with a photo of Jordan Edwards, smiling in his ninth grade school photo.
"That's who this case is about. That kid right there," said Snipes as he pointed to the photo. "It's not a fairy tale. He really was that great. He really did have a 3.5 GPA, he really did want to go to Alabama to play football for them, he really did work out every day, he really did have a million friends, he really did have a nickname 'Smiley.' He was the real deal."
There were tears in the courtroom as Snipes showed more photos of Edwards.
"He was in the ninth grade, he was 15 years old and he did not deserve to die on night of April 29, 2017," Snipes said.
Jurors are considering the charge of murder, but if they can't come to a unanimous decision, they may consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.