January 22, 2022

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Florida murder trial that ended in mistrial over race is set to start anew

The Florida murder trial of a Black man that ended in a mistrial after three jurors allegedly wouldn’t convict him of the top charge based on his race is slated to start anew later this month.

A panel of 12 jurors agreed that Dayonte Resiles, 27, stabbed to death Jill Halliburton Su, 59, during a home invasion robbery in 2014 – but they couldn’t agree on the charge, the jury forewoman told WSVN 7News.

“[The three jurors] said, ‘I don’t want to send a young Black male to jail for the rest of their life or have him get the death sentence,'” the forewoman told the news station of the trial that ended in a hung jury on Dec. 8.

Jury selection for the new trial is slated to begin Jan. 18 in Broward County, records show.

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Initially, nine of the jurors wanted a first-degree murder conviction, but after six days of deliberations they compromised and agreed to find Resiles guilty of manslaughter.

In an unusual twist, the forewoman went rogue. When she returned to the courtroom and was asked to confirm the verdict, she said she couldn’t do it.

The 36-year-old mother, who described herself as a mixed-race Puerto Rican, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she had a knot in the pit of her stomach.

After the clerk announced the manslaughter conviction but before each of the jurors was polled, she looked at the victim’s husband and at the defense table.

“[The defense lawyers] were just cheering and patting him on the back, like he graduated high school or made a winning touchdown at a football game,” she said. “I thought, what have I done? Is this the world I am creating for my children, a world where someone can get away with murder because of the color of their skin?”

Seconds passed as she locked eyes with the clerk and the judge.

“They’re just waiting for my verdict of either ‘yes, I agree’ or ‘no,’ and I just couldn’t, and that’s why I said no,” she told WSVN 7News.

The judge sent her and the other jurors back to the deliberation room to keep working, but the atmosphere turned hostile, she said.

“You guys keep saying ‘a young Black man,’ but I don’t see race. I just see a human being, and you know, one particular person said to me, ‘Hey, if you were outside this courtroom, you would have gotten smacked out in the street for this,’” she recalled.

Two Black jurors accused her of being racist. For her, the only issue was whether the prosecution proved Resiles’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“If it was my brother who was accused and the same set of facts was presented, I could have voted guilty of first-degree murder,” she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “That’s what the evidence showed. It’s not a racial thing. It’s a crime. He is the killer. I don’t care what race he is.”

Justin Su found his mother’s body on Sept. 8, 2014, her legs and hands bound, inside a blood-filled bathtub in their gated Fort Lauderdale community, and called 911. The victim is a distant relative of the founder of Halliburton, the international energy and equipment company.

Her husband, Nan-Yao Su, an entomology professor, was at work, according to an arrest affidavit. Resiles’ DNA was found on the knife used to stab her to death and on her green bathrobe belt found inside the house.

The defense argued at trial that the DNA match was a result of evidence contamination. Resiles has a lengthy rap sheet, including for burglaries, records show.

Nothing about Resiles’ case has been straightforward. In 2016, he escaped from custody while in court, leading police on a six-day manhunt. He is also charged with trying to manufacture a bogus alibi that would place him in Georgia at the time of the slaying.

The forewoman told WSVN 7News that she hopes the next set of jurors gets it right.

“The society that we’re in right now, it needs to change, and just not look at the color of skin,” she said. “I feel like we need to look at each other as human beings.”

If convicted, Resiles could face the death penalty. Resiles’ attorney Michael Orlando didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

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