The answer to the question of whether or not a jury with only one black person on it would be able to mete out justice in the killing of former NFL running back Joe McKnight is “sorta.”
After seven-and-a-half hours of deliberation Friday, a jury in Louisiana found Ronald Gasser, 56, guilty of manslaughter in the Dec. 1, 2016, fatal shooting of McKnight at an intersection 5 miles southeast of New Orleans, the New Orleans Advocate reports.
Midway through those deliberations, the jury asked the judge for the legal definition of “aggressor,” according to one of the jurors who spoke to the Advocate under the condition of anonymity. The juror said getting that definition was a crucial moment in the deliberations.
The jury was then split 10-2 on the cause of the shooting. While 10 of the jurors felt that Gasser’s response to being cut off in traffic by McKnight led to the confrontation that ended in McKnight’s death, the two holdouts believed that McKnight’s getting out of his car led Gasser to shoot him in self-defense.
From the Advocate:
Defining when the incident began was important because the state’s self-defense law would allow Gasser to use lethal force if he felt threatened and if McKnight, 28, was inside Gasser’s vehicle, but it would not have allowed him to instigate a conflict and then claim self-defense.
Gasser would have had to make a clear and good-faith effort to withdraw from any conflict that he himself had started.
Prosecutors in the case were seeking a conviction on second-degree murder. The manslaughter verdict carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.
Gasser is to be sentenced March 15.