By Liz Shepherd
ROCHESTER — After about seven hours of deliberation, a 12-person jury came to an impasse in reaching a verdict on John Lawrence Schultz IV’s case.
Schultz, 19, is accused of conspiring to plot a Columbine-type massacre. After closing arguments and final jury instructions were given, the jury entered deliberation around 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, July 28.
However, around 6:15 p.m., the jury informed Fulton Circuit Court Judge Christopher Lee that they had reached an impasse. The jury’s foreperson said the group was unable to reach a verdict on all three counts. He said all members agreed to a verdict on one of Schultz’s three charges; however, he said one juror was not in agreement with the other 11 members on two of Schultz’s charges. The charges they were in agreement or disagreement on were not clarified.
Lee declared a mistrial and scheduled a conference for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 9 to reschedule Schultz’s proceedings for another jury trial.
Schultz is charged with conspiracy to commit murder, a level 2 felony; and intimidation and possession of methamphetamine, both level 6 felonies.
The final day of Schultz’s jury trial began in Fulton Circuit Court with closing arguments from Fulton County Prosecutor Michael Marrs and Defense Attorney Paul Namie.
In his closing statements, Marrs asked the jury to use their common sense while making a decision and not let sympathy or bias become an issue. He also thanked Schultz’s relative who reported the plot to police, as well as law enforcement’s investigation of the incident.
Marrs said the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Schultz conspired with Donald Victor Robin Jr., 18, to commit a school shooting. Robin testified in the jury trial and has already been sentenced in this case after taking a plea deal from the state. Marrs noted that Robin’s testimony was crucial in this case and reminded the jury of how detailed Robin’s testimony was, arguing that his statements were credible.
“There’s no sympathy or bias here, regardless of age, wealth or how well-known you are,” said Marrs. “Everyone is held accountable.”
He also recalled a Facebook messenger conversation between Schultz and Jared Carter, who testified in the trial about going to a pawn shop with both Robin and Schultz.
“In that Facebook message, Johnny (Schultz) said ‘I wanna shoot up a school with him (Robin) … You don’t understand, we have our reasons, we’re 100% in this together.’ Why tell Jared Carter you’re going to shoot up a school with Donald Robin if Donny is pulling his answers out of thin air?”
Marrs reflected on tattoos Schultz and Robin got on their forearms, each depicting a firearm alongside a quote from a Columbine shooter.
“Who does that?” asked Marrs. “To memorialize Columbine? That’s sick stuff. I wouldn’t want any of that on my body but they did and they were in it together.”
He also remarked on inconsistencies pointed out by Schultz’s lawyers between Robin’s deposition that he provided prior to being incarcerated in Westville Correctional Facility, and what he said in his testimony to the jury.
Marrs argued the inconsistencies don’t make Robin a liar and asked the jury to look at Robin as a whole.
In his closing arguments, Namie said that half of the state’s exhibits were related to the Columbine shooting of April 20, 1999.
“We’re not trying a Columbine case here today,” said Namie. “They (the state) need you to link Columbine to Schultz. But Columbine? Columbine happened before Johnny and Donny were conceived.”
He also discussed how Robin’s voice and demeanor changed throughout the duration of his testimony, arguing that these aspects did not make his statements credible.
“He (Robin) rattled off facts about Columbine and there was almost pride in that,” said Namie.
Namie noted that when discussions changed to Schultz as the main subject, or when the defense would ask him questions, Robin’s demeanor would change; his posture would change and his voice would get lower.
“If you’re speaking the truth, you speak boldly and loudly,” said Namie.
He also argued that Robin took the same oath to tell the truth during his change of plea hearing, at his deposition and during the trial.
“Do excuses break an oath and make it permissible to lie?” asked Namie. “Either Donny has a bad memory, a fantastic imagination or he’s a liar. Any one of those three leads to questioning credibility.”
Namie called into question testimony from Jared Carter and David Boucher regarding a trip to a pawn shop in Logansport. Boucher, the manager of the store, testified that there was only one firearm at the location during the time of Schultz and Robin’s visit. However, Robin testified and said there were 40 or 50 guns.
He focused on the many contradictions between what Robin said in his testimony and what was in his deposition.
“Without Donald Robin’s truthfulness, there is no conspiracy,” said Namie. “They had no guns, no map layouts, no written act to kill. They didn’t take any actions on this alleged desire to kill a bunch of kids. There’s no evidence to show they had the desire to do this. It’s all talk.”
To conclude his argument, Namie pointed out that the conspiracy to commit murder charge filed by the state argues that Schultz conspired with Robin to commit a school shooting at Rochester and Caston Schools. He said the word ‘and’ was crucial because if the jury could not prove there were plans for both schools, they would have to find Schultz not guilty.
In rebuttal argument for the state, Marrs said there were 16 overt acts Schultz committed alongside Robin to plan the massacre. He argued the acts included online research, stealing tanks to experiment with bomb-making, creating “school shooter” hats and writing names as a type of ‘hit list’ on a wall.
“It was not all talk,” said Marrs. “So what? If you don’t get them walking in the school with guns, it’s not a crime. We’re supposed to get them when they’re already in the schools? Once we have dead kids? Then we have a problem … Do we really think this is two drug-induced kids fantasizing about this and that’s it? It’s a working plan.”
He also reminded the jury of how it was one of Schultz’s family members who reported the plan to police.
“He’s (Schultz) a young man but he’s guilty,” said Marrs.