LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC A circuit court judge Thursday declared a mistrial in the eight-day-old trial in which Sidney “Butch” Hursey was charged with murder in the shooting death of a man who lived on his rural Lexington County property.
The jury had deliberated some eight or nine hours before telling Judge Thomas Russo it was hopelessly deadlocked. Russo then declared a mistrial.
Prosecutors alleged Hursey, 71, shot and killed Michael Reese in November 2009 at Hursey’s Gaston-area business, Cowboy’s Auction.
In dispute at trial was what actually precipitated the shooting.
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But Reese was shot five times with Hursey’s .38-caliber revolver – twice in the head, once in the chest and two in the back, according to testimony.
The defense argued that a drunken Reese attacked Hursey and Hursey had no choice but to defend himself, while the prosecution argued that Hursey shot Reese after he threatened to expose Hursey's video poker machines.
Evidence at the trial showed that Reese had a blood-alcohol level content of .20. A blood-alcohol level of .08 is evidence of intoxication under S.C. law.
The shooting received widespread publicity at the time in part because deputies investigating the shooting found video poker gaming machines inside Hursey’s business.
During the trial, Hursey – one of about 25 witnesses – testified he fired in self-defense. If he had been convicted, he could have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Deputy 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard told The State later Thursday that a retrial is likely.
“We are planning on it,” said Hubbard, who prosecuted the case with fellow Deputy Solicitor Shawn Graham. “We will meet next week with the judge to schedule a time to try it and see where we go from there.”
A decided majority of the jury wanted a guilty verdict, Hubbard said, but at least two jurors did not. “It’s just one of those things where every now and then you don’t get a unanimous verdict.
“Both sides fought hard,” Hubbard added, “and the judge gave us a great trial.”
Three major matters were in dispute during the trial – whether Reese was a tenant with a right to be on Hursey’s property, whether it was murder or self defense and what prompted the shooting.
Hursey’s attorney, Jake Moore, said after the mistrial, “We were disappointed the jury could not reach a verdict. This was a very sad and tragic case. One thing for certain – Mr. Hursey is not going to jail tonight –and of course, he is innocent.”
Moore was assisted by attorneys Brooks Biediger and Stanley Myers.
“Any time your client is charged with murder in Lexington County and he walks out of court a free man, it is a good feeling – there’s no compensation for having done your job better than that,” Moore said.
Hubbard and Moore each praised the other team of lawyers for fighting a hard and fair legal battle.
“This is one of those cases where both sides didn’t see things the same way, and we needed 12 people to make a decision for us,” Hubbard said.