A jury convicted a 27-year-old man Tuesday, Aug. 25 of a class B felony count of manslaughter.
Justin Crites was charged in June 2019 with killing 57-year-old Jay LePage outside The Shop Bar and Lounge. The verdict came hours after jurors had asked to listen to a witness' testimony and indicated they were having trouble reaching a verdict.
Police and prosecutors argued that Crites hit LePage during a fight outside a Williston bar in May 2019, causing LePage to hit his head on the sidewalk.
LePage died days later in a hospital in Minot. Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued Crites attacked LePage, while the defense claimed LePage had been acting aggressively and while Crites hit LePage, he didn't intend to cause him harm and only acted after LePage attacked him.
Shortly before the jury returned from lunch on Tuesday, Northwest District Judge Kirsten Sjue spoke to the prosecution and defense about the jury's note from just before noon.
“After deliberation, we cannot reach a unanimous verdict of either guilty or not guilty, please advise,” the note read, Sjue told attorneys in the case.
The jury also asked about reviewing the testimony of a woman who said she saw Crites punch Jay LePage outside The Shop Bar and Lounge in Williston. Brittany Myers, who was working at The Shop that night, testified she watched the assault.
In his testimony Monday, Crites said he and Myers had a long-running disagreement, and Donald Sauviac, Crites’ public defender, told jurors Myers wouldn’t have been able to see from the space she said she parked.
After lunch Tuesday, Sjue called jurors back into the courtroom and directed them to return to the jury room and send a note indicating if they still wanted to review the testimony. Because a transcript hasn’t been produced yet, jurors had to listen to an audio recording of the testimony.
The verdict came back around 6:30 p.m. No date has been set for a sentencing. Class B felony charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.