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Judge declares mistrial in murder case prosecuted by Gardner's office

The accused suspect sat in a St. Louis city jail for more than five years while Gardner's office prepared the case. A juror described the evidence as "terrible."

ST. LOUIS — A first-degree murder suspect sat in a St. Louis city jail for more than five years awaiting his day in court, according to court records. 

On Wednesday, a judge declared a mistrial after a jury deliberated for five and a half hours and failed to reach a verdict.

A prosecutor in St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner's office asked the jury to find Dejuan Allen guilty of killing 19-year-old St. Louis native Kendrick Woods on the back porch of a house in the Shaw neighborhood in December of 2017. 

Three months later, in February of 2018, a grand jury recommended Allen face murder charges in the first degree. 

The court set bond, but the defendant could not afford to pay it. A year and a half later, in June of 2019, Allen's attorneys unsuccessfully asked the court to reduce bond. 

The murder trial was initially scheduled for July 2018, but was postponed 27 times on continuance motions.

By the time Gardner's office brought the case to trial, jurors described the evidence as incomplete, inconclusive, and at times, incoherent. 

According to one of the 12 jurors seated in the trial, the prosecution's case rested on the testimony of one eye witness, another witness who was not at the scene and was deemed not credible, no ballistics evidence, no physical evidence and nothing else that would persuade the full jury to convict Allen of murder. 

The juror, who spoke to 5 On Your Side on condition of anonymity considering the dangerous nature of the crime, said there was broad agreement from 11 of the 12 jurors that the prosecution was not persuasive. 

"I don't feel like justice was served," the juror said. "I felt really bad leaving and leaving this kid possibly still in jail. I feel like the prosecution could have done a better job, or should have done a better job."

The juror described the prosecution's presentation as "terrible."

Court records list Srikant 'Sai' Chigurupati as the prosecuting attorney of record in the case. 

"It was not good at all," the juror said. "He did a really poor job of presenting evidence, presenting witnesses, convincing anyone. He looked very nervous the whole time. It was just terrible."

Chigurupati is the last remaining prosecutor left handling several hundred violent felony crimes in Gardner's office.

Two separate legal proceedings, a contempt of court case and a 'quo warranto' push to expel Gardner from office, have scrutinized the dismal staffing levels and heavy caseload at the Circuit Attorney's Office. 

Allen remains detained in jail, pending further action from the prosecutor’s office.

Allen’s attorney Paul Sims said he intends to file a motion to dismiss the charges. When asked if he expects Gardner's office to refile charges, he said "of course."

The Circuit Attorney's Office disputed the characterization of the outcome as a technical "loss," since there remains the possibility of a future conviction if they refile charges and bring the case to trial again. 

"This defendant remains held and we will evaluate our options," spokeswoman Allison Hawk said in an email. 

However, the suspect's defense attorney and the juror expressed serious doubts that the Circuit Attorney would have much success persuading 12 members of a jury to convict the suspect on the word of one eyewitness alone. 

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