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Great Falls shooting case declared a mistrial

Fannie Mae Brown pleads for the denial of bail for Shawn Wilson, accused of killing her son, Charlie Ray "Juicy Brown Jr., in the Chester County Courthouse on Tuesday. Wilson's trial was declared a mistrial because the jury couldn't deliver a unanimous verdict. Consoling Brown are Charlie Brown Sr., left, and the Rev. William Brown. Below, defense attorney Jack Swerling talks to Wilson in court.
Fannie Mae Brown pleads for the denial of bail for Shawn Wilson, accused of killing her son, Charlie Ray "Juicy Brown Jr., in the Chester County Courthouse on Tuesday. Wilson's trial was declared a mistrial because the jury couldn't deliver a unanimous verdict. Consoling Brown are Charlie Brown Sr., left, and the Rev. William Brown. Below, defense attorney Jack Swerling talks to Wilson in court.

CHESTER -- A jury of six men and six women on Tuesday failed to agree on the fate of Shawn Dewayne Wilson in connection with the 2003 shooting death of a 24-year-old man outside a Great Falls bar and grill.

"We, the jury, cannot come to an unanimous decision, so we are hung," Judge Brooks Goldsmith read from a yellow slip of paper during court.

"I'm going to declare a mistrial in this case," Goldsmith then said.

Police say Wilson, then 25, shot Charlie Ray "Juicy" Brown Jr. in the stomach at The Talk of the Town bar and grill on Chester Avenue in Great Falls. Brown was taken to Chester Regional Medical Center, where he died.

Four years later, Fannie Brown cried in court for her son.

"I do not have another son," an emotional Brown told the court.

Helen Brown offered support to her family while the jury's decision rang in her ears.

"Every night the jurors go to sleep, they've got to remember what they did to Great Falls by releasing him back into society," Brown said after court.

Moments after the verdict, defense attorney Jack Swerling asked for bond reinstatement for Wilson. Goldsmith granted the request; however, Wilson remained in custody Tuesday night at Chester County Detention Center. Bond was set at $125,000.

If Wilson posts bond, he must remain under house arrest except when he goes to work, doctor and/or attorney appointments and church, Goldsmith said in court.

Wilson must be at his father's Great Falls home from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., adhere to restraining orders and wear an electronic device, Goldsmith said. Wilson also is prohibited from having a firearm. Should Wilson violate his bond conditions, a warrant will be issued for his arrest, Goldsmith said.

Swerling expects to retry the case, but Sherry McMurray, Wilson's mother, had hoped the verdict would bring resolution for her son.

"I'm relieved that he gets to come home, but I didn't want it to be this way," McMurray said after court.

Brown's stunned family members cried quietly, sniffled and rocked in their seats with news of the verdict and bond.

"We hold no malice against the other family," Helen Brown said after court. "To us, what happened in the courtroom goes to show that no matter how you try to do right, somebody's out there doing wrong, and they can get away with it."

The jury's decision came after four days of testimony about the shooting that left Brown dead, injured another man and sparked fights in the parking lot near the bar and grill.

Also wounded in the incident was Lawrence Thigpen of Great Falls, who was hit in the chest with a bullet after he opened his front door, according to court testimony.

Officials charged Wilson with murder, assault and battery with intent to kill and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. But Swerling said Wilson did not fire his Browning semi-automatic gun at either man.

"Mr. Wilson only fired in the air," Swerling said during closing arguments Tuesday morning. "Someone else shot Mr. Thigpen. Someone else shot Mr. Brown."

Wilson fired his gun to get the crowd's attention, Swerling said, and because he was concerned for his safety and that of his friends.

"Was he right shooting up in the air?" Swerling asked. "Maybe not. But he did not kill anyone."

Witnesses testified they heard shots fired from multiple directions.

"Someone else could have struck Mr. Thigpen and Mr. Brown with another entirely different gun," Swerling said.

Yet, prosecutors found fault with Swerling's theory. Assistant Solicitor Sandra Hickmon recalled earlier testimony from witness Stacey McMurray.

"She saw the defendant in the parking lot shooting," Hickmon said during her closing arguments. "She saw Shawn Wilson walking toward the fight. He wasn't trying to help anybody."

Wilson previously testified he did not immediately leave the bar and grill when his first cousin walked in and announced he was about to be jumped. Billy McMurray also stalled and testified that when he walked outside, Wilson was already shooting, Hickmon said.

"Shawn Wilson interjected himself to the fight," Hickmon said. "He ran to the fight armed with his gun to shoot.

"At some point, he stopped shooting in the air," she added. "He leveled that gun, and he sprayed left to right. A witness said that was something he'd never forget."

For Brown's family, they will never forget their son, brother, cousin and friend, said the Rev. William Brown, Charlie Brown's uncle.

"It's been four years," he said. "My heart still grieves."

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