Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

Jury deadlocks over mom accused of burying guns in Brandon High athlete killing

TAMPA — A jury deadlocked just two hours into deliberations, leaving a Hillsborough County judge to declare a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a mother accused of burying guns after her son shot and killed a Brandon High athlete.

"After extensive deliberation ... we are not able to come to a unanimous verdict," the jury forewoman wrote to Circuit Judge Nick Nazaretian. "More time tomorrow will not affect the verdict dispute."

Jurors declined to comment as they left the courtroom. A second trial was set for Dec. 4.

The failed effort to reach a verdict in Heidi Quinn's trial followed a morning of testimony that aired new information about the New Year's Day killing of basketball player Jayquon Johnson, 17.

Until Tuesday, the only account that had been made public was that of Cody Quinn, the teen who claimed to have shot Johnson in self-defense.

But Quinn's former girlfriend added a new voice, testifying that she saw Johnson flash a gun and tussle with Quinn before Quinn fired his own gun, killing Johnson. Quinn was 16 at the time.

Investigators could not disprove his self-defense claim, though he does face drug charges based on a search of the house that day.

Heidi Quinn was accused of tampering with evidence. Authorities said she tried to hide the two guns in a trash can full of dirt. She faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors had offered a plea deal that called for 18 months of probation; she declined it.

Johnson's family members sat in the courtroom Tuesday morning, sniffling at times as a prosecutor narrated the events of the shooting. His father wore a T-shirt with the son's photo on it, which prompted a judge to take precautions to keep the jury from seeing it. The jury was also not told the shooting occurred during a drug transaction.

BACKSTORY: In a flash of gunfire, Brandon champion Jayquon Johnson's legacy dissolves into questions

Cody Quinn's now ex-girlfriend, 16-year-old Abigael Martin, testified that Johnson uttered three words after he was shot. She did not repeat them.

She said a third armed male, known to her as "Jet," was in the garage that day but fled after Johnson was shot. She, too, fled inside the house to tell Quinn's mother he had shot someone.

Before getting on the phone and speaking frantically in German to someone about "your son," Heidi Quinn moved the guns, Martin testified.

"I saw Heidi with both guns in her hands and she walked out the front door with them," Martin said.

Nathan Klippel, another of Cody Quinn's friends, testified that the two talked via phone right after the shooting. "Bro, I just shot somebody," he recalled Quinn saying. Klippel, who lived nearby, sprinted to the Quinn house and saw Johnson on the floor of the garage. Klippel said he stood with his father and called 911.

Cody Quinn told Klippel that Heidi Quinn had the guns, Klippel testified.

Klippel said Heidi Quinn didn't respond when asked about them. He said she was "freaking out." He said she later brought them out. He recognized one as Cody's. He said he put one on the kitchen counter and the other on a sofa in the garage.

Later testimony included Jennifer Norman, a crime scene investigator for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. She told the jury that both guns were packed with dirt when she examined them.

The case detective, Moises Garcia, testified that when he learned the guns had been moved, they became almost useless as evidence.

In opening statements, Assistant Public Defender Fernando Martinez described Johnson's death and the aftermath as a "tragedy for everyone involved."

But he suggested that Heidi Quinn was simply trying to secure the guns because they were a threat.

"Ms. Quinn didn't know what to do," he said. "One thing was clear, though: those guns were a threat."

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

This story has been updated to reflect the following correction: After a jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared in the evidence tampering trial of Heidi Quinn, a judge set a new trial date for Dec. 4. A previous version of this story included an incorrect date.

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