A jury ended a four-day trial in Richmond County Superior Court on Friday, acquitting Tony Walker Sr. of murder charges.
Before the verdict was announced, the judge brought in extra deputies and sternly admonished family members and friends of the accused and the victim. More than once this week, jurors sent the judge notes saying some members felt threatened and intimidated by court spectators.
In the end, Mr. Walker, 46, was found not guilty of murder in the Sept. 11, 2004, shooting death of 20-year-old Willie D. Jordan.
Mr. Jordan and Mr. Walker's son, Tony Walker Jr., got into a fight in Cherry Tree Crossing, a public housing complex on 15th Street.
Witnesses agreed that when Mr. Walker arrived in his car to pick up his son, Mr. Jordan approached the passenger's side window. Mr. Walker said he saw a gun and fired his own .45-calber handgun in self defense. No weapon connected to the victim was found, however.
Several people attended the trial both in support of the accused and for the victim. While everyone maintained a respectful silence in court, jurors reported being fearful for their safety outside the courtroom.
"That should not have happened," Judge Duncan D. Wheale told the jurors. He asked court security officers to escort jurors to their cars. He also prevented the departure and arrival of spectators at the times jurors could be coming and going from court.
Jurors resumed their deliberations Friday and reached a verdict just after 10 a.m.
"In my opinion you dodged a bullet in this case," Judge Wheale told Mr. Walker.
An acquittal cannot be appealed.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.