BLOOMINGTON - A McLean County jury on Wednesday will continue deliberating the fate of a former Bloomington man accused in a fatal shooting at Miller Park more than two years ago.
Byron Merriweather chose not to testify during his murder trial. But one defense witness told jurors Tuesday that Merriweather didn't shoot 24-year-old Stephen McDade during a fight between rival Twin City gangs.
Bertram Given, who at the time was a member of the Conservative Vice Lords gang, said Merriweather was standing next to him unarmed when the shooting occurred.
Merriweather, also a Conservative Vice Lord, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of McDade, a Gangster Disciple. Given was the defense's only witness.
Jurors started deliberating late Tuesday afternoon, but were sent home an hour later by Judge Ronald Dozier after they had not reached a verdict.
In closing arguments, First Assistant State's Attorney Kim Campbell reminded jurors that Merriweather not only confessed on an audio tape, but that several eyewitnesses identified him as the shooter.
Merriweather, 20, known in gang circles as "Little Lord," had a longstanding feud with the Gangster Disciples and had told others that he'd been previously shot at by members of the gang.
"You know why this went down," Campbell told the jury. "It may not make sense, but it is why it happened. Stephen McDade was shot by "Little Lord" Byron Merriweather because of his gang affiliation."
Defense attorney Dick Koritz argued that every prosecution eyewitness had something to gain by testifying that Merriweather was the killer.
Some witnesses received money from police to move away from the Twin Cities. Some offered their testimony with the hope of receiving reduced sentences on pending criminal charges
Rhonda Williams, who wore a wire when Merriweather admitted shooting McDade on audio tape, asked police to consider taking time off her boyfriend's prison sentence for drug charges.
"Stop and think about all these witnesses," Koritz said in his closing argument. "Common sense says their credibility is in the toilet. Think about all that you've heard and apply a little horse sense to it."
Campbell countered that Merriweather picked his audience when he shot and killed McDade in front of Twin City gang members at Miller Park.
"He didn't think any of those people would testify against him," Campbell said. "If he did this in Eastland Mall, I'd have people running over the stage to testify."
The jury will resume its deliberations today at the McLean County Law and Justice Center in Bloomington.