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Pender jury hangs

BY CORIANNE EGAN cegan@paducahsun.com

BARDWELL - A Carlisle Circuit Court jury could not make a decision Tuesday on the fate of Jay Pender. Judge Tim Langford declared a mistrial after the jury failed to return a verdict.

Seven men and five women deliberated 51⁠2 hours Tuesday in a case involving Jay Pender of Milburn, who faces a charge of murder for shooting his brother-in-law in late June last year. The jury was considering murder, but also could have returned verdicts on the lesser charges of second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide. They could have also found Pender acted in self defense and acquitted him of charges.

Commonwealth Attorney Mike Stacy said he plans to ask for a new trial.

"Contrary to popular belief, my job is not to get convictions, it is to find the truth," Stacy said. "All this has shown me is that I have to do a better job next time. I'm not disappointed in the jury. They have a very hard job to do."

"Any time your client is charged with murder, you're glad they can walk out of the courtroom with you," Pender's attorney Bryan Wilson said. "We will try this case again. We have a strong defense that this was self defense. Unfortunately the jury didn't acquit him, but we will fight again."

Pender is on trial for the death of Scott D. McBride. Pender admitted to shooting McBride after the two argued about, among other things, tree branches that were in Pender's driveway. McBride approached Pender while swinging an ax handle. Pender shot him twice with a 9mm pistol.

The commonwealth contends it was murder, saying surveillance video at Pender's house shows Pender without his gun earlier in the day. He went back inside for his gun, Stacy said, showing his intent. The defense has argued self-defense in the case, saying that McBride was the aggressor and Pender was being attacked.

After the defense presented its side Tuesday morning, the jury returned after lunch to hear rebuttal witnesses and closing statements before being sequestered.

Pender took the stand Tuesday afternoon, saying he was scared for his life when McBride came at him with the long, fiberglass ax handle. The handle, which was used as a prop in the closing arguments of both the prosecution and defense, did not have an ax head attached.

Pender also told the jury he didn't remember firing his gun the first time, and that he did not have time to aim on either shot.

The defense's case consisted of several visitors to the Pender residence on the day of the shooting, but the most compelling testimony fell to the three people who were outside when the shooting took place: Jay Pender, wife Laura Pender and their friend Chrystal Dowdy. Dowdy and Laura Pender both testified that McBride was relatively close to Pender when the first shot was fired. Laura Pender said she yelled for her husband, and when he turned to respond to her McBride continued to step forward waving the ax handle. Pender then shot again, she told the jury.

The women's testimony resulted in a 90-minute rebuttal testimony by lead Kentucky State Police Detective Kyle Nall. Nall was called back to the stand to note what were described as discrepancies in the testimony of the Penders and Dowdy.

All three told different stories on the stand than they did in their original interviews with Nall, and the jury was able to hear the differences by listening to nearly an hour of audio from the interviews. There were differences in what caused the argument and whether or not Jay Pender went outside the house to confront McBride or out of curiosity, but as Wilson noted, the differences never included any of the facts surrounding the actual attack.

Pender will remain out of jail for the time being, and is still charged with murder. A pretrial conference is scheduled for March 6 to determine a new trial date.

Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.

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