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Mistrial declared in capital murder trial of Dallas man accused of killing 3-year-old son

Jurors were divided 11-1 in favor of convicting Brandon Edwards, 37. Lawyers said it’s too early to say next steps.
Brandon Edwards
Brandon Edwards is shown during trial proceedings July 19, 2021, at the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas.(Jeffrey McWhorter / Special Contributor)

By Krista M. Torralva

The capital murder trial for a Dallas man accused of killing his 3-year-old son ended in a mistrial Wednesday.

Jurors were divided 11-1 in favor of convicting Brandon Edwards, 37, defense lawyer Paul Johnson said.

Lawyers questioned the holdout juror in a hearing that was closed to the public. The juror said she did not believe that Edwards was guilty and felt that reviewing the evidence wouldn’t change her mind, Johnson said.

State District Judge Tina Clinton declared a mistrial. Lawyers said it was too early to determine how they’d proceed. Prosecutors could decide to take Edwards to trial again. He previously rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty to murder — not capital murder — in exchange for a 60-year prison sentence.

Under that deal, Edwards could have been considered for parole after 30 years. Because prosecutors weren’t seeking the death penalty, a capital murder conviction would have carried an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors couldn’t explain how Edwards killed his son, Bryson Edwards, on Jan. 12, 2019, in their home at the Greens of Hickory Trail apartments near West Wheatland Road. Dr. Tracy Dyer, a Dallas County deputy chief medical examiner, said that asphyxiation was Bryson’s cause of death and that his fatal injuries were consistent with strangulation and smothering. But she couldn’t say for sure what was used to kill Bryson.

Bryson also had scrapes, bites and stab wounds, but Dyer said those injuries were not what killed him.

Edwards’ ex-partner, Quiana Williams, testified that he first attacked her with a knife during an argument in their upstairs bedroom. Bryson and his sister intervened and Williams was able to break free, she said. Edwards’ daughter, now 11, testified that she picked up her brother and followed her mother outside the apartment. But Edwards snatched Bryson from her arms and shut and locked the front door, the girl said.

Bryson was unconscious when police and paramedics arrived and Edwards was leaning out an upstairs window yelling nonsensical things, neighbors and first responders testified during the trial, which lasted a day and half.

Jurors deliberated about three hours Tuesday before being released for the evening. During the first day of deliberations, they sent a note asking if they could consider other charges besides capital murder. The judge said they could not.

After deliberating about 30 minutes Wednesday, jurors sent several more notes. In one, the jury foreperson said that one juror refused to look at all the evidence, specifically photos. The foreperson asked if the juror could be excused. An alternate juror waited in another room.

The judge initially declined prosecutors’ requests to interview the holdout juror before clearing the courtroom of spectators. An hour later, she declared a mistrial.

Jurors appeared emotional throughout testimony. Two jurors cried when the girl spoke about guilt she feels for not being able to save her brother. Two jurors also cried when prosecutor Marissa Aulbaugh showed autopsy photos of Bryson during Dyer’s testimony. One juror looked down at the floor each time Aulbaugh walked in front of the jury with the photos.

“This case is not easy to stomach,” Aulbaugh said during closing arguments before jurors began deliberations. “It’s not supposed to be easy to stomach because sometimes evil is just evil.”

Johnson, the defense lawyer, argued that prosecutors didn’t explain what happened behind closed doors in the apartment that day and that jurors shouldn’t be able to find Edwards guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the legal threshold required to convict.

“I know the question in your mind is, ‘How is it possible for him to do something like that in his right mind?’” Johnson told jurors. “You can’t answer that question.”

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