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Judge declares mistrial in capital murder trial of Shawn Gant-Benalcazar

After 19 hours of deliberation, a judge has declared a mistrial in the capital murder trial of Shawn Gant-Benalcazar.

AUSTIN — After 19 hours of deliberation, a judge declared a mistrial in the capital murder trial of Shawn Gant-Benalcazar.

A family friend of Kathy Blair's relatives, Ed Watt, spoke on behalf of the family. He said Blair's family is frustrated and upset because they were so close to getting "a measure of justice" for Blair.

District Attorney Margaret Moore said her department is very disappointed.

Moore said "the jurors that voted guilty were very confident in that vote. And we will of course retry this case."

Defense attorneys for Shawn Gant-Benalcazar denied to comment after the mistrial was declared.

Before the mistrial was declared, the judge in this case met with the hold out juror in his chambers with the court reporter and attorneys from both sides.

Wednesday afternoon was tense as they deliberated, according to the foreperson for the jury.

The foreperson juror also said a jury member would take frequent smoke breaks -- interfering with jury duties.

Attorneys for the 33-year-old defendant, who was accused of murdering Kathy Blair, made two requests for a mistrial Thursday.

The first request was made around 9:30 p.m Wednesday after the jury sent the court a note.

"The note specifically said we have a juror with a reasonable doubt," said defense attorney Ariel Payen.

The defense made a second request for a mistrial Thursday around noon after the jury asked to review a portion of Gant-Benalcazar's testimony.

The judge denied those mistrial motions.

Gant-Benalcazar's testimony read to the jury was in regards to the defendant's conversations with Tim Parlin regarding Kathy Blair's death.

Tim Parlin is an accused accomplice.

Defense attorney Ariel Payen argued, because a juror, "found that there was a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the individual in the trial, further deliberations violate the defendant's rights under both equal protection and due process laws."

This trial centers around the burglary and murder of victim Kathy Blair, an Austin choir teacher, who was found dead in her home in December 2014. Gant-Benalcazar and Timothy Parlin were identified as people of interest in her death. The jury in Gant-Benalcazar's capital murder trial was shown video in which he confessed to killing Blair after she lunged at him.

He testified that he broke into her home to steal jewelry and that she woke up, "lunged at me, grabbed the knife, tried to wrestle it out of my hand and it was a struggle. And I stabbed her in the neck. I didn't even want to do it. I was trying to get the jewelry without doing it."

Gant Benalcazar's defense team said the confession was coerced.


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