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Judge sequesters jury in murder trial of Vincent Brown, accused of killing girlfriend

TAMPA — After about four hours of deliberations, the judge stopped the jury.

It was 5 p.m. and the 12 jurors hadn't reached a verdict in the murder trial of Vincent George Brown, accused of kidnapping and killing his girlfriend Jennifer Johnson in 2008.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente told the group they would be going to a hotel to be sequestered for the night. Jurors will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. today.

Brown is accused of putting Johnson in the trunk of her car, from which she tried to call 911 for help, before asphyxiating her.

If Brown is convicted of first-degree murder, the trial would go to a penalty phase and jurors could recommend death.

In closing arguments Tuesday morning, the defense painted a picture of a complicated case filled with inconclusive evidence.

Assistant Public Defender Robert Fraser argued that she couldn't have fit in the car trunk because there was a baby seat in the way. He said that at 5-feet-11 and 177 pounds, Johnson was too strong to have been overtaken by one person. That and a 911 recording, in which she says "they" took her, point to two attackers, Fraser argued.

"The assailant wasn't Mr. Brown," Fraser said.

He reminded the jury that Johnson did not say Brown's name during the 911 call.

"Why wouldn't she do that if he were one of 'they'?" Fraser said.

Assistant State Attorney Jalal Harb said she didn't need to.

"What we do expect her to do is call 911," he said. "And she did."

Harb argued that the evidence points to Brown. The pair was together before her death; Brown was seen driving her car afterward; and phone records place him east of Tampa. Johnson's body was found in Lakeland.

The attorney also showed the jury a transcript of a phone call that Brown made the day of Johnson's disappearance, while others were looking for her.

"I don't give [an expletive] about her," Brown said.

"The huge significance of this is it shows animosity toward who? Toward the victim," Harb said. "Ergo, the motive."

The jury members were not allowed to watch television or listen to the radio while sequestered at the hotel. Each was able to make a phone call to relatives, which was monitored by a bailiff.

Judge sequesters jury in murder trial of Vincent Brown, accused of killing girlfriend 11/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 10:22pm]
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