After difficult deliberations, a defendant was acquitted of two counts of aiding and abetting a 2011 slaying on a St. Paul street. But with a mistrial on a lesser count, this alleged getaway driver still could be recharged.
A Ramsey County jury was sequestered for three days last week before acquitting Nicholas J. Kruse on two counts of aiding and abetting the murder of Dekoda Galtney in St. Paul in 2011.
Prosecutors are to decide in coming days whether to recharge Kruse, 26, on a third count -- aiding an offender -- that ended in a mistrial, County Attorney John Choi said Friday.
Kruse's trial was capped by what his attorney, Murad Mohammad, and some court officials said was one of the longest, most thoughtful jury deliberations they've seen.
The jurors faced difficulties that can arise in considering the fate of someone accused of helping another to commit a crime, rather than acting as the main participant. And their conclusion, after multiple votes, was an unusual split verdict that leaves open the door to a possible retrial on the lesser count.
Mohammad said it's rare for jurors to acquit on two counts and deadlock on another.
"In trying over 60 cases, I've never had a jury out nearly that long, deliberating constantly for three days straight while sequestered," he said Friday. "It just shows that these cases are awfully close and that the jury struggled in making a just and fair decision."
Kruse was charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a drive-by shooting, aiding and abetting unintentional murder and the lesser count of aiding an offender.
Prosecutors alleged that he positioned a car for the shooting and that he was the getaway driver. The third count alleged that he lied to police and concealed evidence.
The first two counts were aiding and abetting as it related to the actual act of murder, Choi said, and were quite different from the third count, which related to the defendant's actions after the shooting.
In June, Kruse's best friend, Adrian R. Flowers, 23, entered an Alford plea of guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and was sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison.
Another suspect, identified in court as Christopher Jovan Bruce and nicknamed Bubba, has not been charged. An investigation into his role continues.
"I think juries struggle with people who are not the main bad actors themselves but rather associate with people who are, and just because they happen to be in the same place they are when arrested," Mohammad said.
Terror on an autumn evening
Galtney, 24, was shot in the heart as he exited a car near E. 4th Street and Bates Avenue just before 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2011, in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood. Five gunshots were fired from 60 feet away as parents on the block grabbed children and ran indoors.
Kruse was driving Flowers and Bruce in a flashy Dodge Magnum owned by a friend. Silver and black with shiny chrome wheels, it stood out.
The city's closed-circuit TV system showed the car going around the block at 6:20 p.m., with two men getting out at an alley. It didn't record the shooting at 6:23.
Neighbors told police the shooter pulled out a silver handgun and fired about five shots down the street.
One witness testified to being with her 7-year-old daughter on the sidewalk when she saw two guys walk down her side of the street and into the alley. She said the Dodge followed and pulled up next to the alley. She heard gunshots and then the Dodge "goes flying up the street backwards," she said.
Her description of the gunman matched Flowers, whose image was recorded shortly before the incident by a gas-station security camera. He was wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a blue bandana around his neck.
Galtney's father, Otis Harris, spotted the Dodge as he and his grandchildren sat in front of his apartment building at E. 4th Street and Maria Avenue. "It kept circling the block, circling the block, circling the block," he testified.
He watched it slowly drive down the dead-end block and come back. He felt uncomfortable, so he moved his family to the back yard. "About five or 10 minutes later, I heard the shots," he said.
Galtney's friends rushed him to Regions Hospital, but he died that evening, said prosecutor Elizabeth Lamin.
'Caught in a mess'
A relative who ran to the hospital room, Leslee Sheppard, told police that "Nic" Galtney had fought with Bloods gang members 20 to 40 minutes before the shooting. He wasn't referring to Flowers and Bruce, who belong to a rival gang, Mohammad said. Sheppard told police Galtney fought a gangster known as "B."
Kruse was not in a gang, but every other person involved was, Mohammad said. He wanted to argue that the killing was gang-related, but Judge Joanne Smith ruled gang-related information couldn't be admitted because the crime wasn't charged as being for the benefit of a gang.
Kruse told police that he drove Flowers and other men to buy marijuana, that he didn't see Flowers with a gun that day and that he fled the shooting scene without picking up Flowers.
Kruse later admitted that after the shooting, he called Flowers, picked him up and drove him home.
But there wasn't "a shred of evidence" showing that Kruse knew a shooting was about to go down, his attorney said.
"This was an emotional case for everyone," Mohammad said. "No matter what the outcome was going to be, there was going to be heartbreak.
"A young man is dead because of the boneheaded behavior of Adrian Flowers," he added. "Nicholas Kruse was caught in a mess of a situation the day Dekoda Galtney was shot, but he had no reason to suspect that he would be caught in between a gunfight between two rival gang members."
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038