Deondre Byrd was acquitted on a murder charge

Deondre Byrd was acquitted on a murder charge today, 14 years after he was first accused in a shootout between rival gangs that killed an Ann Arbor teenager.A Washtenaw County jury deliberated most of the day today before returning the not-guilty verdict just before 5 p.m.And although Byrd, 34, wasn't convicted, he won't be set free. Instead, he will be transferred back to federal custody to await trial in an unrelated triple homicide that occurred in Ypsilanti Township in 2001.
Byrd was accused in the shooting death of Tamara Stewart, 16, who was attending a barbecue on Ann Arbor's south side in July 1995 when she was killed by a stray bullet.Washtenaw County Chief Deputy Assistant Prosecutor Steve Hiller, who tried the case, declined to comment on the verdict or speculate on how jurors came to their decision. He said he did not speak to them after they reached the verdict.
Byrd's attorney, Anthony Chambers, could not immediately be reached for comment.
During the weeklong trial, witnesses included retired investigators, informants and people who were there the night of the shooting.Police have said it was fueled by a feud involving Byrd and William "Chuck" Taylor. Both men were charged in 1995, but the cases were dismissed when witnesses refused to testify, saying they were too scared. Taylor was shot to death in an unrelated case at an Ann Arbor hotel in 2002.
Three other men also were charged in the Stewart shooting; two were convicted, and one was acquitted.The case was revived last year after one of the men who was convicted - 33-year-old Emilio Vasquez - won the right to a new trial on appeal.Before his second trial got under way, Vasquez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and admitted he fired a handgun in Stewart's direction that night. Vasquez, who was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison, also agreed to testify in any cases that arose from Stewart's death.Vasquez testified during the case this week. Byrd did not take the stand in his own defense.An informant in the Washtenaw County Jail also testified, and a tape was played of a conversation he had with Byrd while both were in jail. Retired Washtenaw County Sheriff's Detective Gordon Ralph said Byrd can be heard on the tape telling the man he shot a .357 that night and had a "pocket full of bullets.""It's just unfortunate," Ralph said of the verdict.
It's unclear when Byrd will go on trial in the federal case.

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