SAN ANTONIO – After 9 hours of deliberation over two days, the jury in the Mark Howerton murder trial could not reach a unanimous verdict and a mistrial was declared late Thursday afternoon.
On Friday, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said he was disappointed that the trial ended in a mistrial but said: ”We have every intention of going forward.”
He said that he planned to retry the case, explaining that a new trial would be before a different jury and held at a later date. As for Howerton, he remains free pending a new trial.
Howerton was facing murder, sexual assault and kidnapping charges in the death of Cayley Mandadi, 19, a Trinity University cheerleader, in October 2017 during a trip to Houston.
He told investigators that the couple stopped to have consensual rough sex when Mandadi stopped breathing. Medical experts testified that the teen died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head.
According to testimony during the trial, the couple had been dating but Mandadi was planning to end the relationship. Witnesses testified that Howerton was controlling and possessive.
Though the panel declined to discuss the case with the media after the mistrial was declared, the foreman told KSAT that the vote was 8-4 in favor of a guilty verdict. Howerton faced a maximum punishment of life in prison.
The indictment against Howerton will remain in place and the case will go back into the system to be retried at a later date.
Part of the preparation for that trial would be evaluating the input prosecutors received during their meeting with jurors following Thursday’s mistrial.
“We, as lawyers, learn a lot so that we can take that with us when we prepare for trial the next time,” Gonzales said.
“You really want to know their thought process and learn from them what they believe was important, the evidence that was compelling and maybe where they feel we wasted their time.”
Meetings with lawyers and jury panels follow most trials, providing the jury is willing.
“It is amazing what juries hang their hat on,” Gonzales said. “Sometimes it’s just about the presentation of the case, sometimes it’s about the personalities or maybe they just didn’t like a witness.”