HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — After nearly four hours of deliberation, a jury found Derick Walton Jr., charged in the aggravated malicious wounding of 5-year-old Ke’miyah Edwards and malicious wounding of a man, not guilty on all charges.
8News reporter Laura Perrot spoke with Walton Jr.’s sister off camera after the verdict was announced. She said it had been a long year, and “the jury really showed up for her brother.”
In a statement, the Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said, in part, “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.”
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. 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.”Full statement from Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor
The jury began deliberations around 5 p.m. Friday. Around 7 p.m., the jury came back into the courtroom with two questions for the judge. One question was about a detective’s report which was never entered into evidence. The judge said the jury must rely on their memory. The jury also had a question about which charges applied to which victims. The judge clarified that before the jury went back to the deliberation room.
Walton was indicted on June 5, 2019 for charges of aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, two counts of use of a firearm while committing a felony, shooting into an occupied dwelling, and shooting from a vehicle.
When Walton took the stand Friday, prosecutors questioned him on his inconsistent statements. When he was first interviewed by police in 2019, he told detectives that he was not in the area of the shooting when it happened. Weeks after the shooting, In his testimony Friday, Walton said he lied because he was afraid of potential consequences for the check fraud he was involved in.
In Friday’s testimony, Walton admitted to being in the area of the shooting when it happened. However, he claimed he did not fire shots.
Walton also admitted he was involved in a fraudulent check scheme at the 2500 block of Byron Street where the little girl was wounded. His acquaintance asked if he knew a way to make fast money and Walton informed him of the fraudulent check business.
He testified that on the day of the shooting, he and two others picked up a check from the Byron Street home, but the check did not work when they tried to cash it. When Walton and the others drove back to Byron Street to return the check, he said shots were fired as they drove past in a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
In his testimony, Walton said he was sitting in the passenger seat and ducked, telling the driver to keep driving. Walton claimed he did not have a gun nor did he shoot anyone.
At one point while being cross-examined by the prosecution, Walton got emotional about Edwards’ injury.
Walton’s testimony directly contradicts what the driver told the jury on Thursday.
The driver claims Walton was riding in the back seat of the Jeep when they drove by the house on Byron Street. The driver said Walton forgot something at the home and asked him to make a u-turn.
The driver said as they drove past the house, he heard three gunshots that sounded like they came from inside of the car where Walton was sitting. The driver said he never saw a weapon, but did testify that he saw Walton pull at his pants and potentially tuck something into them.
The driver testified that he did not go to police afterwards because he was scared. He said Walton continued to check in on him in the days following.
During cross-examination, the defense, asked the driver if he picked up checks from the house on Byron Street. The driver pleaded the fifth amendment, but claimed he did not pick up checks after being questioned further.
The driver testified he has pending cases in Hanover County and Henrico County, including charges of driving under the influence and reckless driving. The defense suggested he will get favoritism in those cases for testifying in the case. However, the driver claimed he was not made any promises from prosecutors.
On April 7, 2019, three days after the shooting, officers stopped the Jeep in a traffic stop where they recovered a .45 caliber glock that was allegedly used to shoot Ke’miyah, as well as a gun magazine.
On April 9, Walton was taken into custody.
The Jeep was seized on April 11. The car’s owner, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged shooting, said that he went to police after his car was seized.
Law enforcement officers testified they also recovered three firearms, a .45 caliber gun, .25 caliber gun and 9 millimeter gun, from the Byron Street home where the little girl was shot.
Ke’miyah’s grandmother, who lives in the home, testified that she has six sons and is not always aware of what they bring into the house.
Evidence showed there were bullets and casings matching all three of those firearms that were found in and outside of the house, according to testimony from a firearms examiner with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
There were two cartridge casings matching the .45 caliber gun that was allegedly used by Walton to shoot at the home, injuring Ke’miyah. Those casings were found on the street. There were also two bullets from a .45 caliber that were not found to be consistent with Walton’s alleged gun, but were ruled out from the other .45 caliber gun that was recovered from the home.
In addition, there were several bullets and casings that came back inconclusive from the examination.
The defense also called a witness who lives near the house where Ke’miyah was injured. The neighbor testified he was outside doing yard work on April 4, 2019 when he heard a loud bang. He looked up to see a woman running out of the front of the home and two men running out of the back. He said a third man was shooting at the two men from the back door as they ran away.
During the closing arguments, the prosecution said, “The people in that house (on Byron Street) weren’t angels.” They argued that firearms and drugs were found in the house and the people in the house shot back during the drive-by shooting, but asked the jury to weigh what was more important.
The prosecutor said Walton’s emotion during his testimony made her angry. “He’s crying for himself because he’s been caught,” she told the jury.
They also argued that although Ke’miyah was likely unintentionally hurt, Walton was still acting with malice and wanted to hurt someone at the house over the fraudulent check issues. The prosecutor said the jury should believe the driver of the Jeep who testified because he had nothing to gain by coming forward.
Prosecutors reminded the jury of family members’ testimony that following the shooting, blood and gray/white matter could be seen coming from Ke’miyah’s head. The prosecution said common sense would assume this is brain matter and that Ke’miyah now has to take medications and is in special education classes because of the brain damage from her injuries.
The defense argued there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence to tie Walton to the alleged gun used to hurt Ke’miyah or the other man. None of the bullets recovered inside of the home matched the gun that the prosecution believes Walton used, the defense pointed out. Police also never recovered a bullet that hit Ke’miyah.
Another piece of the defense’s argument was that the Commonwealth did not bring in any medical experts to testify about Ke’miyah or the adult male’s injuries to verify the wound was caused by a gunshot.