PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- A jury found Jerry Atkinson, Jr. not guilty on counts related to the death of 18-month-old Dion Lofton, Jr., including First Degree Murder.
The verdict came late Thursday afternoon after several days of testimony in the case.
Atkinson faced 10 charges including First Degree Murder, Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Attempted Robbery and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony related to the shooting death of Lofton.
Police said in 2015, they received a call about a shooting on Maple Avenue in Prentis Park. Emergency workers found Lofton with a gunshot wound to his right cheek, and an exit wound to the back of his head.
Defense witnesses finished their testimonies Tuesday. Atkinson also took the stand before his attorney, Andrew Sacks, rested his case.
Atkinson explained how he met up with Marquis Hinton and Anthony Holley in June, 2015 on the day when Lofton was killed. Hinton and Holley also were charged in the baby's death.
Atkinson said he had been at his grandmother's home for about an hour or so earlier in the day with Hinton. Atkinson's grandmother lived hear Hinton.
Atkinson testified he met Holley at a friend's house for about three hours in the evening. During that time, Holley asked Atkinson if he wanted to come with him to buy some marijuana. Atkinson also said Holley didn't mention anything about meeting Hinton or having a gun.
Atkinson told the court that he and Holley walked to the house at 1507 Maple Avenue and Hinton just happened to be there. That's when he said Holley and Hinton went into the home and he stayed on the porch. Atkinson said he never went into the house because he didn't have any money. He also said when he heard shooting inside the house he ran off to another friend's home that they "chill at." That's where he said he called his mom to come pick him up and then went home.
When asked why he told police a different story the night they picked him up from his home for questioning, Atkinson acknowledged that he lied to police but said it was because he was scared. He also said he didn't know what to tell police because he wasn't there.
On Wednesday, the prosecution presented rebuttal witnesses, and closing arguments began.
Earlier in the trial, Holley who previously entered a guilty plea to several charges related to the crime, testified for the commonwealth's attorney's office.
Holley's testimony contradicted what he previously told officers about Atkinson's involvement in the death of Lofton.
Holley testified that Atkinson was at the home on Maple Avenue where the shooting took place, but that Atkinson never went inside the home and that Atkinson did not have a gun. Holley added that Atkinson was not aware of the robbery that was to take place and that he was in court Monday "to tell the truth."
When asked why his testimony differed from what he originally told police, Holley said he made the earlier statements because he felt pressured when detectives questioned him.
Sacks pointed out during his cross-examination of Holley that Holley received a deal from the Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney's Office in exchange for his cooperation. That deal put a cap of 34 years on his sentence.
The Commonwealth also called Justin Dillon to the stand. Dillon was Atkinson's cellmate from August to September 2015.
Dillon, a convicted sex offender, said he and Atkinson talked about their cases when they shared the jail cell.
Dillon stated that Atkison told him "they" had bought some marijuana at the home on Maple Avenue where Lofton was shot earlier in the day in 2015 and that they saw money on the table.
Dillon testified that Atkinson said he went back to the home later with his "boys" and that Atkinson was the lookout while the other men went into the house. Dillon added that Atkinson told him while he was acting as lookout, he heard gunshots inside the home and ran off.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney William Nossen said in addition to Lofton, a woman named Sarah Sutton had been shot near her upper buttocks in the home.
Nossen said in his opening statements that Lofton was the victim of an attempted armed robbery that went wrong. Prosecutors could not say who, in fact, fired the shot that hit the 18-month-old, causing his death.
“What the evidence will prove is that this defendant actively participated in a plan to rob the residents," said Nossen.
Sacks argued that the evidence would fail to prove that Atkinson was in the house when the crime was committed. He said on the night of June 27, 2015 his client believed he was going to the home with Holley and Hinton to buy marijuana and wasn't aware of the other two men's intentions.
Several witnesses for the prosecution took the stand and were cross-examined, including Lofton's mother, Nikita Hayes. Hayes gave her recollection of the events from that night.
During cross-examination, Sacks accused Hayes of making contradictory statements about Atkinson's involvement in the crimes when compared to her statements given at a preliminary hearing in November 2016.
Hayes recounted wrapping a towel around Lofton's head after he was shot. When that towel was put into evidence and shown to Hayes in court on May 9, she started crying on the stand.
She then revealed that she was unable to accompany her child to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital where medics took Lofton after the shooting because she was being questioned by police.
Shortly after reaching the hospital, Lofton died.
Holley and Hinton entered guilty pleas to felony charges related to the case.