Jurors deciding the fate of Jonathan J. Behan, Jr., charged in the June death of 18-year-old Aaron Cotton, told a Scott County judge late Thursday afternoon that they were at an impasse in their deliberations.
The jury deliberated for more than four hours when they notified Judge Mark Smith in writing that they had discussed the evidence in great detail and had taken several votes but were not able to reach a unanimous decision.
Prior to that, jurors had sent Smith two notes indicating that they were split on a verdict.
Smith denied a request by defense attorney Eric Reyes to declare a mistrial and sent a note back to jurors to continue their deliberations. He dismissed the jury for the day at 4:30 p.m. and told them to return Friday morning to continue their discussions.
Behan, 18, of Davenport, is charged with homicide by motor vehicle (recklessness) and failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors argued at trial, which began Monday, that Behan’s friend, Daniel Garcia, also 18, called Cotton on June 23 to buy marijuana and arranged to meet him in the parking lot at Wood Intermediate School on North Division Street.
Prosecutors say Behan drove Garcia to the school in his Ford F150 pickup truck. Video from a surveillance video at the school showed that the truck arrived at the school at 10:13 p.m.
Prosecutors say Cotton had stepped onto the running board of the truck to give the marijuana to Garcia and that he clung onto the vehicle when it started to pull off and head toward West 58th Street.
Prosecutors say Behan drove recklessly and swerved to try and get Cotton off the truck. A woman who lived in the area testified at trial that she had been sitting in her car at her house when she saw a blue truck, which didn’t have its headlights on, speeding toward her and then swerve at the last minute.
She said that she saw Cotton, who she knew from school, clinging to the side of the truck and two unknown people inside the truck.
Cotton suffered fatal injuries when he fell from the truck on West 58th Street. Police were called to the scene around 10:30 p.m.
Assistant County Attorney Kimberly Shepherd said in her closing arguments Thursday that Behan made several choices that night.
He chose to drive Garcia to the school to buy marijuana. He chose to pull away as Cotton stood on the truck’s running board. He chose to drive recklessly and, when Cotton fell from the truck, chose not to stop or call police, Shepherd said.
She pointed to testimony from Garcia and his mother, both of whom said they spoke to Behan by phone after the incident and told him that Cotton was found in the street and that he needed to come back.
Behan never came and was found by police the following day.
Reyes told jurors during his closing that there was no evidence that tied Behan or his truck to the incident except for the testimony and statements of Garcia.
Garcia, Reyes said, changed his statement several times and had an “extreme bias and motive” to implicate Behan.
“For all we know, Daniel Garcia drove that truck and he decided to try and place blame on his friend when he got caught,” he said.
Reyes denied that Behan disappeared after the incident and said that he was staying the night with a friend. It does not appear that his truck had been washed to conceal any possible evidence when police seized it, he said.
Reyes said that Behan's truck did not have any physical evidence, such as fingerprints, that indicated that Cotton had been on the truck.
In her rebuttal, Shepherd played a video captured at the school and pointed to a large white "patch" on the back.
Behan's vehicle has a large white decal on the back.
Shepherd argued that Garcia voluntarily gave police the marijuana that he said he got from Cotton and that he cooperated with the investigation.
She also pointed to cell phone records, which she said shows that Behan called Garcia just before 10 p.m. June 23. Garcia called Behan after midnight on June 24, according to the phone records. That lapse in communication between the two indicates that they were together during that time, Shepherd said.
She also told jurors about a text message Behan later sent to his mother on June 24 that said, “I love you mom, I’m so sorry.”
“Sounds like knowledge,” she said. “Sounds like somebody who knew exactly what they had done."