A Panola County circuit jury found David McClarty not guilty Friday of murdering his mother’s boyfriend.
The jury announced the verdict at 3:20 p.m., apparently believing McClarty’s claim that he acted in self defense when he shot and killed Kenny Belvin with a Ruger .22 caliber revolver.
After the jury was dismissed, McClarty’s family members and Belvin’s family members exchanged cross words in the courthouse hallway.
Sheriff’s deputies separated the families, later escorting McClarty and his family from the courthouse.
The slaying occurred in May of 2004 at 1211 Sardis Lake Drive, and McClarty was indicted last November.
McClarty’s mother, Lynn Jenkins, was set to testify for the defense Friday morning but did not. McClarty’s attorneys put him on the witness stand instead.
The jury of eight women and four men reached its verdict after approximately two hours of deliberation at the county courthouse in Batesville.
Circuit Clerk Joe Reid announced the verdict, which had been passed from the jury foreman to Judge Ann Lamar on yellow legal paper.
In the courtroom, the two families sat across from each other as the jury filed into its seats.
When the verdict was read, some of Belvin’s family members sobbed loudly and dabbed at tears with tissue.
Members of McClarty’s family seemed startled at the decision, jumping back as Reid read the verdict.
McClarty showed no emotion when the verdict was read.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Kelly prosecuted the case against McClarty, who was represented by Joey Langston of Booneville and Zach Scruggs of Oxford.
Kelly and Langston wrapped up the trial with closing arguments late Friday morning.
The trial began Monday with a 225-person jury pool. It was delayed by two days because Judge Lamar was sick.
After the trial, McClarty and his family, and their attorneys gathered in the courthouse law library, where they celebrated McClarty’s acquittal with hugs and high-fives.
Outside the library, Langston said he and Scruggs decided to keep McClarty’s mother off the stand in order to limit the state’s rebuttal witnesses.
The state’s witnesses "could have clouded what we considered to be a very clear case," Langston said.
Langston credited Scruggs for suggesting that McClarty testify, and also for preparing the defendant for his testimony.
"David’s story has been self defense all along, and we knew that once he explained that to the jury, and once the jury heard his side of the case – which is really the only side of the case – that they would find (him) not guilty by self defense," Scruggs said.