SALT LAKE CITY — Jurors on Thursday acquitted a man accused of murder in the death of a man who was run over while trying to recover a trailer he reported was being stolen.
Jay Richard Urry, 43, was found not guilty of murder and robbery, first-degree felonies, in the fatal 2015 dispute.
Urry was charged alongside two others — Jeanette Teddie Miner, 28, and Jesse Floyd Searle, 36 — who have since pleaded guilty to manslaughter and obstructing justice, second-degree felonies. They were each sentenced to concurrent terms of one to 15 years in prison.
According to police, Urry and Searle borrowed Miner's truck in December 2015 and stole a trailer and several other items from the home of Eric Carter, 49. They returned later with Miner to steal more items, charges state.
Carter arrived at his house before the trio left and attempted to get back the trailer, which he had borrowed from a friend.
According to police, Miner was driving her pickup pulling the trailer and was attempting to escape when Carter climbed into the truck bed. That's when charging documents say Searle pushed Carter out of the truck. Miner accelerated, running over Carter.
Before he died, Carter called 911 and gave emergency dispatchers the license plate number of the truck, which was registered to Miner, police said.
But Urry's attorney, Rudy Bautista, argued during the three-day trial that the group believed they had permission from the trailer's owner to go to the home, to take property from it, and to take the trailer.
"We argued that he was led by Jesse Searle into believing that they had permission to do this by the owner of the property," Bautista said. "Under the honest belief defense, he wasn't guilty of robbery or burglary, and since he wasn't guilty of robbery or burglary, he can't be guilty of murder."
The jury handed down its verdict after 90 minutes. While jurors acquitted Urry of the murder and robbery charges, they still found him guilty of obstructing justice, a third-degree felony, and trespassing, a class A misdemeanor.
Once the verdict was announced, 3rd District Judge Richard McKelvie ordered that Urry, who has been in custody since December 2015, be released until sentencing on Feb. 26. In light of the time Urry has already served, the judge is expected to order probation for the third-degree felony conviction, Bautista said.
"He and his family were in tears with the verdict, they were so ecstatic and grateful and pleased that the jury gave him the benefit of the doubt," Bautista said.
The attorney added, "We don't know if (jurors) agreed with the affirmative defense, or if simply they didn't think the state proved it beyond a reasonable doubt. Whatever the standard is, we're just grateful that they upheld Mr. Urry's constitutional rights, gave him a fair trial and came up with a just verdict."