LUMBERTON — After a four-week trial in Robeson County Superior Court, a 12-person jury was unable to unanimously agree on the fate of a man who is accused of provoking a fatal stabbing in 2007.
The case of Adam Rozier, who is charged with aiding and abetting voluntary manslaughter in the death of 21-year-old Chad Allen Arnette, was declared a mistrial on Thursday by Superior Court Judge Greg Bell after the announced deadlock, according to Gwen Chavis, Superior Court trial coordinator.
Chavis said it was up to the Robeson County District Attorney’s Office whether or not the case would be tried again. Assistant District Attorney Tony Berk, who prosecuted the case, could not be reached for comment.
Arnette’s aunt did call The Robesonian on Thursday and said the case would be tried again. The Robesonian has learned the split was 8 to 4, but heard differing accounts on which way the jury was leaning.
Rozier is accused of provoking Drew Floyd to stab Arnette with a kitchen knife during an altercation at a parking lot on Roberts Avenue on Feb. 14, 2007. The altercation was prompted by a text message Arnette sent to Floyd’s girlfriend. Floyd was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced in September 2011 to serve at least three years in prison.
The exchange between Berk and defense attorney Gayla Biggs was often heated during the trial. Before closing arguments on Wednesday, District Attorney Johnson Britt briefly joined the prosecution team as Biggs and Berk battled over wording in instructions that would be given to the jury.
“This whole proceeding has been marred by absolute bickering back and forth,” Britt told the court. “Now is a point where I feel I should come in, in my capacity as a district attorney, to return some civility to the trial.”
In a closing argument that lasted an hour and a half and was interrupted twice with objections by Berk, Biggs said that before the jury convicted Rozier of aiding Floyd in Arnette’s stabbing, they had to first decide if Floyd was guilty of voluntary manslaughter or if his actions were in defense of Rozier, whom Arnette had hit three times on the head with a T-ball bat.
“The state wants to paint Chad Arnette as a choir boy,” she said, jabbing a finger in Berk’s direction. “They want to paint him as a victim. They have run from the fact that he was beating him (Rozier) on the head with a bat and was not going to stop until somebody stopped him.”
In a 45-minute closing argument that was interrupted with seven objections from Biggs, Berk told the jury that Rozier was not a victim, but a “manipulator.” He said Rozier had instigated the incident by telling Floyd that Arnette had told him to “bring his boys” to the parking lot to fight.
“He was the only one who heard the words,” he said. “… Adam tells you it’s Chad’s idea … but what really led to these events?”
Berk said that Adam’s injuries were not serious enough to warrant the stabbing that took Arnette’s life.
“Was Adam seriously hurt, or was he bringing about the other two into the fray?” he said. “… Adam had malice. Adam wanted Chad hurt, and Adam initiated the whole event that ended with Drew Floyd stabbing Chad.”