Jury can't agree on whether Austin police officer Christopher Taylor murdered Mike Ramos
Jurors couldn’t reach a decision on whether Austin police officer Christopher Taylor committed murder in the 2020 shooting of Mike Ramos. The hung jury came after 12 days of arguments and four days of deliberation.
The impasse is a setback for Travis County District Attorney José Garza, whose office indicted Taylor in 2021. Garza will likely pursue another trial. A guilty verdict could have a lasting impact on police misconduct prosecutions.
Taylor was one of seven police officers who responded to a call about drug use at an apartment complex in South Austin. Taylor shot Ramos three times as he attempted to flee in a car. Ramos' name was invoked in racial justice protests a month later after the police murder of George Floyd.
Late last week, an alternate juror was dismissed. After a long weekend, another alternate was dismissed for researching the case, a violation of the judge’s orders.
Monday afternoon, Judge Dayna Blazey called the jurors in to address their deadlock on the record, instructing them to keep deliberating until they reached a unanimous verdict.
"Don't violate your conscience but continue deliberating," she said.
On Tuesday, jurors said they couldn't agree on what exactly they were charged with deciding. Blazey called them in to reread the charge, specifically the sections clarifying conditions of self-defense or the defense of APD officers.
Wednesday morning, Blazey read the final note from jurors, who said they couldn't "come up with a unanimous decision without violating our conscience."
Taylor was indicted for murder in 2021. The case is one of several police misconduct cases being pursued by the DA Garza.
In a statement, Garza did not address the possibility of trying the case again, but thanked jurors and said he respected their decision.
Chris Harris, policy director for the Austin Justice Coalition, said he was disappointed with the hung jury but that the case "demands" to be retried by the district attorney.
"It's a miscarriage of justice," he said. "It betrays the response ... of the broader community that showed out and protested in numbers never before seen in this city, and it betrays the evidence that was presented in this trial."
Defense attorney Ken Ervin told reporters after the hearing that eight of the 12 jurors believed Taylor was not guilty. In light of that, he said, he believed a retrial could still be feasible in Travis County.
"They'll have some careful thinking to do on their part if they want to pour this amount of resources into this trial that's highly unlikely to end up with a conviction," he said. "In the event that they ... do that, obviously we will be ready, and we will try this case as many times as it takes."
The Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, the statewide police union paying for Taylor's representation, said it would continue to fund his legal costs "as long as it takes to clear his name."
This is the second mistrial in the case, after issues with the jury selection process earlier this year.
If he is retried, Taylor could face anywhere from five to 99 years in prison. Taylor was also indicted for another on-duty shooting in 2019. That fact was withheld during this trial, as Blazey said it could prejudice jurors' decision.
Taylor's case is a rarity. Police officers are seldom prosecuted for fatal on-duty shootings — let alone charged with murder. A conviction would be just the second of a Texas police officer for murder in nearly half a century. The first conviction happened in 2018 in the case of Roy Oliver, a Dallas-area police officer who murdered a 15-year-old in 2017.