Jury deadlocked in Golden Valley murder trial

After two days of deliberation, the jury considering the fate of Golden Valley man charged with murder declared itself deadlocked and a mistrial was declared late Friday.

A Mohave County jury was unable to convict or acquit Chip Moray Smith of felony first-degree murder charges.

Smith, 32, was charged in the August 2001 shooting death of Chris Darren Payton.

Payton was shot was driving on Santa Maria Road, north of Chino Drive in Golden Valley.

Authorities first thought Payton, 39, of Golden Valley was a victim of the fatal accident after his pickup truck flipped over while traveling on Santa Maria Road in the early morning hours of Aug.

13, 2001.

An autopsy later revealed a bullet wound to Payton's forehead and his death was ruled a homicide.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney Lee Jantzen said he would retry the case.

Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss set March 31 for a status hearing to schedule Smith's new trial.

By law, Smith must be retried within 60 days unless defense attorneys agree to a delay.

As late as Friday afternoon, the 10 women amd two men of the jury still had questions on the credibility of the trial's only eyewitness to the shooting, Ashley Holmes.

Other questions included tire marks at the crime scene and questions why other possible witnesses, especially Holmes' boyfriend, were not called to testify.

In a rare reopening of the case late Friday, both Jantzen and Smith's Flagstaff attorney, Michael Hruby gave 15-minute statements to address the jurors' questions.

Jantzen argued that several of the witnesses in question could not be located and Holmes' boyfriend would not return to Arizona from California.

Jantzen repeated his argument that Holmes did not make up the story to protect her boyfriend, who had at one time been a suspect.

"She may be a drug user and her memory isn't perfect," Jantzen said.

"But you don't forget a murder."

Hruby spoke again of the lack of physical evidence and continued to hammer away at Holmes' credibility.

After going back into deliberation, the jurors remained deadlocked.

Weiss polled each juror if further deliberations were needed.

Each juror said no and the trial was declared a mistrial.

In his closing arguments Thursday morning, Jantzen reiterated that Smith, who was supposed to be Payton's friend, did not stop or even call police while driving by Payton's overturned truck and to a lack of physically evidence, but pointed to his witness, Holmes.

On the first day of the trial, Holmes testified how Smith drove her and her fiance from Payton's residence to the spot on the road where Payton was driving up and down.

She described how unusually angry Smith was when he came to the residence.

She also said Smith slammed on his brakes, grabbed a rifle, went to Payton's truck window and after striking him with the gun and his fist, shot him once in the head.

"What was her motive in making it up against Chip Smith?" Jantzen asked the jury on Thursday.

"She didn't hate Chip Smith.

She was his friend too."

Jantzen reminded the jury that witnesses had seen Smith previously with the same gun.

Hruby countered that Holmes was a drug addict, whose memory was questionable.

Hruby also questioned the validity of two other witnesses in the trial who made deals with prosecutors for lesser charges.

Hruby mainly emphasized that there were no DNA, fingerprints and other physical evidence that could be tied to Smith.

Also questioning Holmes' testimony, Hruby said that there was no evidence, other than the bullet wound, of any physical attack on Payton.