Originally created 12/02/06

Deadlocked jury leads to mistrial



Correction, December 12, 2006: An article in Saturday's editions about the trial of a man accused in the death of an Aiken newspaper carrier misidentified Cornell Tyler, at far left. The photo published with the article reporting a mistrial in the case was that of his brother Tremaine Tyler, at left, who also faces charges in the case. (Highlight changes)

AIKEN - Cornell Tyler will be tried again.

After hours of deliberations Thursday, an Aiken County jury could not agree on a unanimous verdict for the man accused of gunning down two newspaper carriers late last year in what authorities called a case of mistaken identity.

Second Judicial Circuit Court Solicitor Barbara Morgan said the jury threw in the towel at about 1 a.m. Friday, and Judge Tommy Russo had to declare a mistrial.

Mr. Tyler probably will be retried in February, she said.

The jurors' final vote must remain secret, but Ms. Morgan said "they came close."

"Clearly it was our understanding that it was on the side of conviction. However, no one can invade the province of the jury," she said.

Mr. Tyler and four other men were charged late last year in the shooting, which left Aiken Standard carrier Debra Dorch dead of a gunshot wound to the heart and co-worker Joe Brewer with wounds.

After a three-day trial, the jury began deliberations at about 4 p.m. Thursday. At about 8:30, they told Judge Russo that they could not reach a verdict.

He sent them back for more discussion, and at about 10 p.m. they asked to rehear the testimony of four key witnesses, including two co-defendants.

Authorities say the two carriers were mistaken for rival drug dealers early Nov. 27, 2005, when they backed up to deliver a newspaper to the house next door to the mobile home on Union Academy Road that Mr. Tyler shared with his brother Tremaine.

Police say Tremaine Tyler shot first at the carriers and that Cornell Tyler and two others then chased them more than two miles, shooting at them and causing Ms. Dorch and Mr. Brewer to crash in a field.

Cornell Tyler faces charges of murder, assault with intent to kill and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

Four others still face charges relating to the shooting:

- Tremaine Tyler was charged with two counts of assault with intent to kill.

- Edward Walker and Willie Ware face the same charges as Cornell Tyler. They are accused of being a passenger and driver, respectively, in the car that chased the two carriers while Cornell Tyler shot at them from the back seat.

- Johnny Miles is charged with accessory after the fact and misprison of a felony. He's accused of helping hide the brothers and getting rid of the murder weapon.

Mr. Ware and Mr. Miles both testified against Cornell Tyler on Wednesday, saying he shot the gun that killed Ms. Dorch and wounded Mr. Brewer and told Mr. Miles about it later.

Cornell Tyler testified in his own defense Thursday, saying he was never in the car that chased the carriers and was instead in bed at the time.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.