OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Tevin James Benjamin, the youngest of four teenagers arrested in the 2008 slaying of Michael David Porter in Moss Point, has been acquitted of capital murder in a second trial on the charge.
The trial had been moved from Jackson County to Lafayette County because of pretrial news coverage of the case.
The Mississippi Supreme Court threw out Benjamin’s conviction last June and ordered a new trial.
Authorities said Porter and his wife had gotten lost driving from Hattiesburg to their grandson’s football game in Moss Point in 2008. Authorities say he was shot during a robbery attempt at a gas station.
Benjamin, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2010 in Jackson County. The Supreme Court ruled that a trial judge “erred in denying Benjamin’s motion to suppress his statement to the police, which was given in violation” of his Miranda rights.
Court records show Benjamin denied participating in the shooting, instead saying he was at a fair. Authorities say that was an alibi the group concocted and that it in itself implicated Benjamin.
The Lafayette County jury returned the verdict Thursday.
“I am shocked and disappointed with the verdict handed down,” District Attorney Tony Lawrence said in a statement.
Lawrence said the Supreme Court prevent the jury from hearing “a critical piece of evidence against the defendant because we were unable to use his statement at this trial.”
Two others - Darwin Wells and Terry Hye Jr. - have been convicted in the case.
Wells was convicted of a reduced charge of murder by deliberate design in October 2009. He was sentenced to life and is eligible for parole at age 65. He was 15 at the time of the slaying. His conviction is under appeal.
Hye, who was 16 at the time of the shooting, was convicted of capital murder in March 2010 and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Last May, the state Court of Appeals upheld Hye’s capital murder conviction but threw out his sentence due to his age. Hye is now asking the state Supreme Court to vacate his conviction or give him a new trial.
A fourth Moss Point teen, Alonzo Kelly, was charged with accessory after the fact to capital murder and pleaded guilty in 2009. Kelly, who was 17 at the time of the incident, is serving five years in prison. There is no appeal pending.
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