Judge halts jury talks in Arizona campus shooting trial

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FLAGSTAFF, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The judge overseeing the trial of a man accused of murder and assault for fatally shooting one Northern Arizona University student and wounding three others halted jury deliberations Wednesday after concluding the prosecution gave jurors misleading information during closing arguments.

Coconino County Superior Court Judge Dan Slayton reviewed court transcripts and decided the prosecution erred when jurors were told Steven Jones did not tell officers he thought a group of students had been trying to kill him until after he was at a police station and sitting down with an officer.

Jones actually told an officer earlier, while detained in the back of a police cruiser, that he thought he would die in the October 2015 confrontation.

"The jury cannot be left with the impression that the only self-defense arguments (Jones expressed) were made at the police station," Slayton said.

Jones' lawyers asked Slayton to declare a mistrial but the judge suspended deliberations and set a hearing with prosecutors and defense lawyers for Thursday to argue how they believe he should handle the issue.

Deliberations won't start again until it is resolved, Slayton said. He also said he felt a solution was possible without declaring a mistrial.

Prosecutors have said Jones, 20, shot the four near the school's Flagstaff campus after he was confronted by a drunken group near campus and punched in the face.

They insisted his actions were premeditated because he went to his car after the confrontation to get his gun and then walked 90 feet (27 meters) before opening fire at the four students.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in the case. First-degree murder is punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Jurors have the option of convicted Jones of lesser crimes, including second-degree murder or manslaughter.

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