Jury deadlocks in trial of Gary man accused in beating death
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent March 5, 2014 8:30PM
Updated: April 7, 2014 1:24PM
Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell declared a mistrial Wednesday in the murder trial of a Gary man accused of beating to death a 60-year-old neighbor whose dog he walked.
After five and one-half hours of deliberation, the jury returned to court to announce they were hopelessly deadlocked in the trial of Akheem Shakur Scott-Manna, 19, who testified on his own behalf Wednesday.
Wearing a beige shirt and tan pants, Scott-Manna denied killing Dorothy Griffin, even though in a 911 call played for jurors he identified himself to the police dispatcher. In court, he said the caller was someone else—his twin brother. “At certain points it kind of sounds like my brother,” Scott-Manna said, referring to Rasheem Scott-Manna. A few days after the murder, Scott-Manna told police his brother was in Georgia, but on the witness stand he said his brother was in Northwest Indiana visiting for the holidays.
Police were called at about 10 a.m. Dec. 7, 2012, to 1934 W. 5th Ave., to a first-floor apartment where Griffith lived and in the same building where Scott-Manna was staying. Griffith was beaten in the face and head, her left eye swollen shut and the bone around the eye broken. She died three days later at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville from blunt force trauma injuries.
Questioned by defense attorney John Maksimovich, Scott-Manna denied telling police, “I hit that (expletive)” and that Griffin had identified Scott-Manna as her attacker before leaving by ambulance for the hospital. When Gary police Detective Roberto Figueroa Jr., questioned him, Scott-Manna had written a letter of apology to Griffin, not knowing she had died. “I just said I’m sorry that this happened,” the defendant said in his letter to “Ms. Dot.”
During a 25-minute cross-examination by deputy prosecutor Michael Toth, Scott-Manna was at a loss to explain what he meant when he wrote to Griffin: “I apologize that I lost myself and acted like that. I can’t remember what happened, but if I was with you, I know you were trying to help me.”
Scott-Manna told hospital personnel he had been smoking marijuana laced with an unknown liquid and drinking alcohol two days before the killing. He spent about five days under psychiatric care before he was discharged, questioned by police and charged with murder.
During closing arguments, Maksimovich said Griffin told police that Scott-Manna was wearing a blue button-up shirt but that Scott-Manna said he was wearing a red shirt with a colorful design when police Sgt. William Fazekas and Lt. Jack Arnold found him eight blocks away in the 1100 block of West 5th Avenue. Evidence showed he jumped from Griffin’s window and fled after the unprovoked assault.
Toth argued that Scott-Manna, who initially said he had no memory of the events, suddenly had his memory restored now that he was on trial for murder. He said Griffin’s description of the blue shirt came at a time when the victim was anxious and distraught from a brutal beating. Scott-Manna’s own admission that he hit Griffin and his acknowledgement to officers that he knew the reason for his arrest pointed to his guilt, Toth argued.
Before the trial began, Maksimovich told the judge his client, against his advice, wanted to withdraw his insanity defense. “I’m OK. I’m not insane or nothing like that,” Scott-Manna told Boswell.