The District Attorney's Office on Thursday dismissed a voluntary manslaughter charge against Jadarius Knox, saying evidence in the case in which Dakota Biddle was killed showed a self defense theory could be found to be valid.
Knox was original charged with criminal homicide in the May 2018 incident on Basswood Drive, but it was reduced to voluntary manslaughter at the Grand Jury level. The state later announced it planned to try the case on the lesser charge next Feb. 11.
However, prosecutor Crystle Carrion announced in court on Thursday the dismissal, saying that Knox "was not the primary aggressor." She also said the female resident at the duplex where the shooting occurred was now a defense witness. The woman had been involved with both men at different times.
Mike Little of the Public Defender's Office said, “The District Attorney’s Office fully investigated this case and made the right decision in moving to dismiss the voluntary manslaughter charge.”
However, the mother of the victim, Samantha Baltazar, asked to address Judge Don Poole. She said, "This did not have to happen. He did not have to kill my son."
According to an earlier preliminary hearing, Biddle, who had come over to retrieve some items, repeatedly tried to pick a fight with Knox. It was testified that after Knox went outside and Biddle followed that Knox shot the unarmed 21-year-old in the face.
Ms. Baltazar said, "This has completely turned our family upside down" with both her and her daughter having difficulty coping. She said, "We don't have Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthdays any more."
She said Knox "has taken everything away from me."
The mother said, "I can't forgive him ever." As she walked by Knox she said, "I hope you burn in hell."
The grandmother of the victim said he was "the love of my life. He called me every single night."
She said it was pre-meditated murder, saying Knox cocked the gun twice before firing. She said, "He did not have the right to take my grandson's life. He's going to have to answer to a higher authority. I promise he'll get justice there."
Judge Poole said he did not have the authority to set aside the decision of the district attorney's office.
He said the case was mainly related to the fact that the law of self-defense had changed. He said under the old law the person with the gun "had an absolute legal duty to retreat." However, he said after the law was changed that person has the right to "hold their ground."
At the preliminary hearing, General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes had rejected a defense argument of self-defense and bound the criminal homicide charge to the Grand Jury.
He kept the same $750,000 bond, but Knox was later allowed to go free.
Judge Starnes said at the time Knox shot the victim in the head that he was not a threat to him.
At the hearing, prosecutor AnCharlene Davis pointed out that in his statement to police Knox said when Biddle came outside waving his XBox and asked "Are you going to shoot me?" that Knox said he thought in his head, "I'm not going to fight you, but I'm going to kill you."
The female resident of the duplex said Knox is the father of her second child. She said they broke up and she began living with Biddle. She said she broke up with Knox after he found some items on her phone that enraged him. She said he knocked her to the ground and then head butted her.
She said Knox afterward would come by to see his one-year-old girl and sometimes stay the night. She said he was there when Biddle came over to gather his belongings.
The witness said Knox had advised her to bundle the items up and put them by the door. She said she did so and at first things seemed to go well. However, she said Biddle then spotted Knox on the couch playing XBox, and he became upset.
She said Biddle came inside and began grabbing items, including a jar of money that belonged to her. Biddle later threw a pickle jar at Knox and began punching him on the couch, causing him to bleed profusely, it was stated. She said Knox did not fight back, but put up his arms to shield his face.
The witness said Biddle had made numerous threats toward her and Knox.
Knox told a detective, "This man was ruthless to me for no reason." He said he slept on the couch when he stayed over at the woman's house and Biddle had nothing to be jealous about.
He said, on the other hand, he had been living a good life. "I'm not in a gang. I work 50-60 hours a week. I don't do drugs."
Knox said he had found the gun used in the shooting while picking up trash along Highway 58 up near Birchwood.