Early on, jury set to acquit Addai
For the first few days of deliberations, jurors in the Elijah Addai murder trial leaned toward a not guilty verdict. Heated arguments ensued, but after 24 hours of deliberations, all 12 agreed Thursday that the Fargo man was guilty of murder. "Wh...
For the first few days of deliberations, jurors in the Elijah Addai murder trial leaned toward a not guilty verdict.
Heated arguments ensued, but after 24 hours of deliberations, all 12 agreed Thursday that the Fargo man was guilty of murder.
"When we took our first vote, I guess I knew it was going to be a battle," jury foreman Steven Kelsh told The Forum on Thursday. "At first ... most people, yes, they didn't think that the state had provided enough evidence."
Two days before handing down the verdict, jurors told the judge they could not agree. The 10 women and two men were deadlocked.
At the time, six jurors wanted to find Addai not guilty. Three or four wanted to vote guilty and the rest were undecided, Kelsh said.
One of the many arguments was whether Addai fatally stabbed David Delonais, 24, in front of two Forum newspaper carriers, as prosecutors alleged. The women, who were present and visibly upset when the verdict was read, both testified they did not see Addai, 24, with a knife, but saw him attack Delonais, of Moorhead.
Defense attorney Ross Brandborg reiterated that to jurors, telling them Addai's friend Semereab "7-Up" Tesfaye was actually responsible for Delonais' death.
That point stuck with some jurors, Kelsh said.
"Some people could not get over the fact that the victim David's blood was on '7-Up's' knife," he said, adding some jurors thought Tesfaye was responsible for Delonais' death.
But the presence of Delonais' blood on a knife found near where Addai was arrested also helped persuade jurors that was more than a coincidence, Kelsh said.
"It was just too unlikely for any other scenario other than what the prosecutor contended," he said.
Tesfaye's testimony, during which he repeatedly asserted his right not to speak for fear of potentially incriminating himself, did not really impact jurors, Kelsh said.
"We knew that he was no angel," Kelsh said of Tesfaye, but he said jurors decided it was not possible for Tesfaye to cause Delonais' fatal wound and have Delonais run about two blocks away with Addai chasing after him.
The arguments in the jury room became heated at times, but as jurors looked deeper into the wording of the murder charge, they decided Addai's actions made him guilty of murder, Kelsh said.
"It was pretty grueling," Kelsh said. "It got contentious, but by the time we were done we probably had more respect for one another than most people do in everyday life. We grew to understand one another by the time it was over."
Jurors hugged each other after leaving the deliberation room Thursday morning. The jury also released a handwritten statement, stating, "This is a sad day for all of us. This was a very serious matter and it deserved thorough deliberations."
The lengthy deliberations - which began late last Friday and ended just after 10 a.m. Thursday - also took a toll on those waiting for the verdict, especially after they learned the jury was deadlocked.
"There's always that chance when you go into a trial that the jury may not be able to reach a conclusion," Assistant Cass County State's Attorney Leah Viste said.
Addai didn't show much emotion throughout the four days of testimony, but as the verdict was read, he appeared shocked and upset when he looked over at the jury.
"We're glad they gave it a long debate; we however felt that we did inject doubt in this case," Brandborg said after the verdict. "We obviously wish the verdict had been something different and at this point we're prepared to move on with sentencing and subsequent to that any possible appeals."
A presentence investigation has been ordered in the case before sentencing. Addai faces up to life without parole for the Aug. 19, 2007, incident.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Brittany Lawonn at (701) 241-5541