Billy Chemirmir trial: Mistrial declared after jury remained deadlocked 11-1

A mistrial was declared in the trial for the man accused of killing 18 elderly people in Dallas and Collin counties after a Dallas County jury was not able to reach a verdict.

Billy Chemirmir was on trial only for the death of 81-year-old Lu Harris. She was smothered and her jewelry was stolen from her Dallas home in 2018.

Jurors began deliberating after hearing closing arguments in the case Thursday afternoon. 


They sent a note to the judge early Friday morning, about 45 minutes after they continued deliberating, saying one female juror was refusing to deliberate. She ordered them to continue deliberating. 

Jurors sent a second note around 11 a.m. letting the judge know they are "hopelessly deadlocked 11-1."

The judge sent them a what's called a "quasi-allen charge," basically compelling the jury to keep deliberating with the understanding that a mistrial would ultimately lead to another jury have to answer the same questions using the same evidence presented at trial

Still, they remained deadlocked. 

Chemirmir's defense attorney asked for a mistrial but the judge denied that motion. Instead, she sent a response back to jurors explaining their duty to continue deliberations until reaching a verdict.

After a fourth note from the jury that they were deadlocked 11-1, the judge declared a mistrial due to a hung jury Friday afternoon.

The jury deliberated for a total of ten hours.

The prosecution told the jury during closing arguments that based on all the evidence they presented, it should take them longer to pick a jury foreperson than it would take them to come to a unanimous verdict, but that wound up not being the case.

It all came down to one juror who could not be swayed.

Chemirmir’s defense, who really didn’t put on much of a case, said the state simply didn’t meet it’s burden of proof, at least to that one juror, and that’s all that matters.

Families of the victims said they’ll just have to prepare to bring Chemirmir to justice all over again.

"Sadness, we've been like that all day. We've been like that for days. We are in total shock," one person said. "I don't know how that happened. I don't know how this one person didn't see."

Families were forced to watch the trial from a floor above the courtroom. 

For the re-trial, former Dallas Cowboy Cliff Harris hopes to be face to face with Chemirmir and the jury.

"They didn’t even go back and look and didn’t have any questions and nothing to ask about the trial. Just stayed at no. How do you do that?" he said.

Families of the victims said they’ll just have to prepare to bring Chemirmir to justice all over again.

"We are sickened that we have come back and hear the same evidence again," said Loren Adair Smith, daughter of Phillis Payne.

"Whoever that juror was, who felt the state had not met its own burden, is entitled to stand by that belief and I appreciate that and everyone should appreciate that that’s what makes this system work," defense attorney Kobby Warren said.

Warren added that Chemirmir maintains his innocence.

The prosecution team did not speak after Friday’s mistrial decision.

RELATED: Billy Chemirmir trial: Jury to continue deliberating Friday morning

Over the last four days of the trial, the prosecution presented 300 pieces of evidence and the jury heard from about 30 witnesses. All of them were put on by the state.

They showed a deposition from a woman who survived an attack. 

She ultimately led police to Chemirmir.

"My eyes were just fixated on these green, rubber gloves that I saw," Mary Bartel recalled. "He said, ‘Don’t fight me. Lie on the bed.’ So I did as he said because I knew I could not overpower him physically."

Chemirmir’s defense team did not make opening statements and chose not to call any witnesses.

In closing arguments, prosecutors said Chemirmir’s desire to grab quick money through murder and theft was more important than the life of Harris.

"He picks out women he knows are too weak to resist. You know now that to him the women who are matriarchs, who are grandmother focal points of family, are just walking dollar signs," said Prosecutor Jerry Varney.

Chemirmir trial day 2 (2)

The defense argued prosecutors could not place Chemirmir at the scene of the murder. 

"That’s what this case is about beyond a reasonable doubt. And it is rampant. It’s rampant throughout these proceedings," defense attorney Kobby Warren argued.

There is no DNA evidence in the case, but an FBI agent testified that cellphone tower records placed Chemirmir near the victims’ homes at the time of their murders and and receipts indicated he routinely sold jewelry that belonged to the victims.

Jurors also saw video testimony from a Plano woman who survived a similar attack. Her jewelry was stolen after she lost consciousness.

Plano police who were investigating that case found Harris’ jewelry and keys when they arrested Chemirmir.

If he had been convicted of capital murder, Chemirmir would have received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole. He could also have been found guilty of theft.

Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in this case.

Aside from likely being re-tried for Lu Harris' murder, Chemirmir has been indicted for the murder of 17 other elderly women.


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