It is a case that jurors have struggled with three times now. And this week, another mistrial was declared in the case of the People versus Corbin Whyte. With a murder charge still unanswered, our Tamara Lindstrom sat down for an exclusive interview with one of those jurors. He explains why the latest jury couldn't deliver a verdict.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Nearly three years after Paul Garcia was shot dead in an Ithaca parking lot on a freezing December night, the case against Corbin Whyte was handed to a jury for the third time.
"Those people in that jury room worked very hard. All of us did," said Juror #12, Robert Fortner.
Whyte was charged with second degree murder, robbery or attempted robbery and tampering with physical evidence for his alleged role in the shooting. It's a crime prosecutors say was payback for a tarnished reputation.
The defense says the evidence doesn't prove Whyte's involvement.
"There was no, as you might call it, smoking gun in this case," Fortner said. "There was no DNA evidence from the victim. There was one eye witness to the crime that could actually identify the victim. So it was a little tough. It was a lot of circumstantial evidence."
Fortner says initially, the jury leaned toward not guilty. For five days, they sifted through evidence, making timelines and reviewing testimony until a clearer picture began to emerge.
"As soon as we did, votes began to change and it started going more towards guilty," Fortner said.
Some of the most powerful evidence, he says, were cell phone records and a recording of a jailhouse call between Whyte and his girlfriend.
"That had a huge effect," Fortner said. "That jailhouse phone call, he basically admitted he was guilty on that phone call."
The jury quickly agreed to acquit on the robbery charge and voted guilty on tampering with physical evidence.
"No one saw any tangible evidence of anything actually being taken," Fortner said. "However, the eyewitness did say he saw he saw him reaching into the pocket. So we went back to the attempted robbery charge. And that's where we got hung."
The jury announced they were at an impasse on Friday, but kept working diligently to come to a consensus.
Finally, five days later, a third jury was hopelessly deadlocked. The judge accepted a partial verdict, declaring yet another mistrial on the murder charge.
"There was still one person, who no matter what you put up there, he wasn't going to vote guilty," Fortner said. "And it was really obvious because he would say things like, 'Well, if you can show me this...' and we would show him. 'Well, that's not good enough.' 'If you can prove this...' and we would prove it. And that wasn't good enough."
Fortner says while he didn't agree with the outcome, he believes the system worked and he hopes to see a fourth trial on the murder charge,
"This thing needs to see an end. It really does need to see an end. In my opinion, there's a killer that's going to be walking the streets of Ithaca again very soon."
The District Attorney's office does plan to go forward with a fourth trial, but the defense is planning to file an appeal and a motion to dismiss.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew McElwee said prosecutors are grateful for the work of all the jurors.