Hung Jury in Pilkinton Murder Trial

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After two days into the trial of the 7-month old murder case of 62-year old Turner County man Morris Pilkinton Jr., preparations for closing arguments began around 3 P.M. Wednesday afternoon. The victim’s wife, Debra Pilkinton was indicted for murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. The shooting occurred on the evening of March 1, 2013 at the Pilkinton’s Hwy 32 East home in Sycamore.

D. Pilkinton PHOTO/ TCSO

On Wednesday, GBI forensic Pathologist Dr. Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft described in detail her findings in Mr. Pilkinton’s autopsy and X-ray to the jury of seven men and five women. She determined that the gun used to shoot Mr. Pilkinton in the left side of his temple was fired from approximately three feet away or more. She also described abrasions and bruising on Mr. Pilkinton’s hands which she determined likely occurred within four hours prior to his death.

Siblings Kelly and Christy Pilkinton were among witnesses questioned in court. Kelly Pilkinton was living at the Pilkinton residence and present when the shooting occurred.

According to the testimony given by Turner County Sheriff Andy Hester Wednesday, the first deputy to arrive on scene reports Debra Pilkinton stated to him she shot her husband. Apparently she also stated she was tired of the abuse from Mr. Pilkinton.

Kelly testified she heard the shot from another room, burst through her parents’ bedroom door and witnessed her mother standing beside the bed with a gun. Mr. Pilkinton was lying on the bed unresponsive. Kelly made the call to 911.

Debra Pilkinton’s attorney, Cheryle T. Bryan, argued that Kelly should have also been treated as a suspect suggesting Mrs. Pilkinton may have confessed to protect her daughter; argument that evening had escalated at the home between Mr. Pilkinton and Kelly.

Christy testified Kelly had called their older sister, Stacy; Christy said she heard Kelly on speakerphone threaten to kill their father during the heated argument. Ms. Bryan told the jury in closing arguments, ” Thirty minutes later, he was dead.” She told jurors there was no evidence to put the gun in Debra Pilkinton’s hand. “You’ve got reasonable doubt,” she told them.

In closing argument, the prosecution played the E-911 recording of the call from Kelly Pilkinton. The state’s argument included describing the demeanor of both women, Mrs. Pilkinton’s being cold while Kelly was distraught, even trying to shake her father to get a response. Mrs. Pilkinton confessed, the state argued, only changing her testimony after being in jail two and a half days.

Mrs. Pilkinton was taken into custody from the scene that evening to the Turner County Jail where she remained until April 12th. She was released on bond with conditions. She was to stay with her oldest daughter and not return to her home. The daughter contacted law enforcement however when Mrs. Pilkinton left her home April 29th. Authorities located Mrs Pilkinton’s vehicle behind her Sycamore residence. She was taken into custody the following morning as the bond was revoked.

The jury had not reached a verdict as of 7 P.M Wednesday night. Apparently Judge Melanie Cross had to address jury members about shouting and the noise level heard from the jury room. They were dismissed and deliberations continued Thursday morning along with an apology from the jury to the court regarding the noise.

At approximately 11 A.M. the jury requested to listen again to the E-911 call made by Kelly Pilkinton the night of the murder.

A half hour later, the jury re-entered the courtroom advising Judge Cross they could not reach a unanimous verdict.

The Judge asked  jurors to return for further deliberations and review of evidence in hopes they may reach a unanimous verdict.

During the trial it was repeatedly said by family members that the Pilkinton family is close despite common arguments fueled by alcohol. It was evident this is true in the courtroom. Mrs. Pilkinton was allowed to visit with her family and friends present while deliberations carried on Thursday. A far different woman than that appearing in her mugshot joined in the laughter and conversation with daughters Kelly and Christy, even given the circumstances.

Just after noon Thursday, the jury returned but remained at 11 -1, therefore Judge Cross ruled a hung jury in the murder trial. Mrs. Pilkinton,60, remains jailed likely until another trial is scheduled. She did not take the stand in trial.