HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- After a three-day trial and nearly three hours of deliberations, a Henrico County Circuit Court jury found Derick Lamond Walton Jr. not guilty on Friday in the case of a 2019 drive-by shooting that ended with two people injured, including then 5-year-old Kemiyah Edwards.
The court was informed the jury had reached a verdict around 8:40 p.m. The jury began deliberations around 5:49 p.m.
Walton, 21, was found not guilty on all six charges: aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, maliciously shooting into an occupied dwelling, shooting from a vehicle, use of a firearm in the commission of aggravated malicious wounding and use of a firearm in the commission of malicious wounding.
Walton was accused of firing from a car outside a home in the 2500 block of Byron Street and injuring a man outside the home and Edwards, who was inside.
“It was a long week. We’d like to thank everybody. We appreciate the jury. They spent a lot of time. They were here late night last night, they were here late night tonight,” said Walton’s attorney, Elliot Bender. “They [the Commonwealth] put the case on the way they felt was appropriate, we felt that it did not meet the standard and, therefore, the jury agreed with us and found him not guilty and that’s what happened.”
“Thank you Jesus, it’s been a long year... The jury showed up for my brother... He was innocent,” said Walton’s sister.
It did not appear that Edwards’ family was in the courtroom for the verdict.
“We have a justice system in the Commonwealth that asks 12 citizens to listen to facts and scenarios that they may never have experienced in their own lives and apply those facts to our laws," Henrico County Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor said in a statement. "Our democracy is based on many principles and the jury system is one of them. When a now 7 year old little girl, who suffered a devastating injury, is the victim, the "not guilty" jury verdict might be a bit harder to swallow, but it is the system we have and one we have to respect.”
However, Walton still faces charges in relation to the 2017 shooting death of a one-year-old girl. Taylor said she believes he is being held without bond pending the outcome of that case.
Jury Deliberations and Questions
The jury, made up of six men and six women, began deliberations at approximately 5:49 p.m.
At approximately 7:01 p.m., the jury was brought back into the court room as they had sent two notes out to the judge.
Henrico County Circuit Court Judge Randall G. Johnson said in court that the first note said “Detective Henry’s initial police report.” Johnson said he assumed that they wanted to see the report, but told them he could not give that to them. He added they already had the entirety of the case, witness testimony and evidence that was entered, and that’s what they had to consider.
Johnson said the second note was jurors asking for clarification on which charges were associated with which victim. Johnson said that the Aggravated Malicious Wounding charge was associated with Edwards and the Malicious Wounding charge was associated with the other person who was injured.
The jury resumed deliberations around 7:05 p.m.
Day Three Witness Testimony
A total of five people took to the witness stand to finish close out the evidentiary stage of the trial. One witness was recalled for the prosecution while four people testified for the defense including the accused, Walton.
Edwards’ grandmother was recalled and testified that a series of holes in the house were not there prior to April 4, 2019.
Those holes included one in the front living room window, one in a wall the separated the living room and kitchen, and one in the kitchen window (along with the blinds and curtains).
Among the defense witnesses was a man who said he lived on a nearby street and can see the back of the Byron Street home.
He said on the day in question he was out doing yard work and heard a big “boom.“ He said he looked up and saw a woman run out the front of the house and two men run out the back. He added that a third person came out the back of the house and fired a gun in the direction of the first two. He clarified upon cross-examination that he did not see what happened at the front of the house.
The final witness for the defense was Walton himself.
Walton testified that on the day in question, he had met with the driver of the jeep and a third person around noon at a friends house. He said that the driver asked him if he knew how to make some quick money. Walton said he told the driver that he knew people at the Byron St. home would create fake checks for people to cash and that he, Walton, had done this in the past.
Walton said that he, the driver, and the third person went to the Byron St. home and got a check for $1800. He said that they then dropped off the third person at a meeting he had with his probation officer and they attempted, but were unsuccessful in cashing the check at an ATM they were told to try at.
Walton said they then picked up the third person from the probation office and attempted to cash the check at another location, but again were unsuccessful.
He said they were then driving to a friends house and passed the Byron St. home. Walton said that shortly after passing it, he told the driver to turn around. Walton testified that he wanted to go return the check as he did not want to be accused of attempting to keep all the money for himself.
Walton said as they got back to the house he heard gunshots and told the driver to keep going. He said afterwards, they went to another friends house to “chill”.
Walton also testified that he was seated in the front passenger seat of the car at this time and that the third person was in the backseat. This is the opposite of what the driver testified to on Thursday.
When asked about the story he gave to police a few days after the drive-by shooting, Walton admitted that he lied and said he was scared because he had never had an interaction with police before and did not want to be implicated in the check cashing scheme.
Walton was then shown the .45-caliber Glock that was recovered from the same car jeep a few days later and said he had seen the third person in the car have possession of that gun (the firearm was recovered in an April 7, 2019 traffic stop. Neither Walton nor the person driving the car on April 4, 2019 were in the car at that time, but the third person was, along with two other people).
On cross-examination, prosecutors pushed back on Walton‘s claim that he had never had an interaction with police before and asked him did he not have one when he was a juvenile. Walton then clarified that he had been questioned before, but he was not facing potential charges and jail time in that situation.
He then admitted upon questioning from the prosecution that he had lied to the jury about having no police contact.
Prosecutors also asked Walton about testimony he provided to police on April 9, 2019 when he told them that he was not at the Byron St. home when the shooting happened, but was six or seven miles away.
They asked him if he is now testifying that he had nothing to do with the shooting, why did he not tell them the truth. Walton answered that he did not want to be implicated in the check-cashing scheme.
He also said that is why he did not willingly handover his cell phone to be analyzed when told that it’s data could be used to clear him of being at the home. But he also agreed with the prosecution when they asked “and because you were lying.”
During the closing arguments in the case, the attorneys for each side offered jurors their view of the case based on the evidence that was presented and called into question the reliability of the other side’s witnesses.
The prosecutor stated this was one of the most challenging cases they have had and admitted that the people at the Byron St. home may not have been angels and their actions may have brought danger to the home, but added it did not mean that Edwards did not deserve justice.
The prosecutor said about the discrepancies in witness testimony, “honestly, that’s what it comes down to” and asked the jury if they were going to believe their witnesses or the defendant, who gave one story to police and then changed it in court.
The prosecutor said the driver had no motive to lie in this case, but admitted he prior convictions that allowed jurors to question his credibility.
The prosecutor told jurors that Walton was lying to police to get out of trouble and then gave jurors another story that matches up with the evidence, such as cellphone data putting his phone at the scene of the shooting when it happened. They added Walton’s “version of events stretches credulity”.
In their closing, the defense asked jurors to question the credibility of the driver’s testimony, noting he had a conviction that allowed them to question the credibility of his testimony whereas their client has no convictions.
The defense added his criticism’s of the prosecution’s case, arguing they gave no direct evidence that Walton ever held a gun; that the gun prosecutors said Walton allegedly used was never tied to the injuries sustained by either victim; and that the victim’s injuries were never determined to be from a gunshot (noting no one saw Edwards get shot, the other victim never testified, and not expert witness diagnosed the injuries).
The defense attorney said that what happened to Edwards was sad, but it was important to get the right person for that and he did not want to see an innocent man go to jail.