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Mistrial declared in ABC robbery case

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- A judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a man accused of robbing a Valley Avenue liquor store clerk at gunpoint in October.

Bernard William King, 29, faced a jury in Winchester Circuit Court on Friday on charges of robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of the felony. Authorities charged King with robbing the Ward Plaza state ABC store at 2218 Valley Ave. in Winchester.

King pleaded not guilty to both charges at the start of the trial, which featured testimony from the clerk.

The jury deliberated for more than three hours Friday afternoon before members advised Judge John Wetsel Jr. they had not yet reached a verdict. Wetsel ordered the jury to resume deliberations at 10 a.m. Monday.

But more than two hours later, the jury remained deadlocked, and Wetsel declared a mistrial, Commonwealth's Attorney Alex Iden said Monday afternoon.

Wetsel ordered a new trial be held Oct. 14.

King's attorney, Mark Vann, argued that the commonwealth lacked evidence to prove his client robbed the store. The clerk who testified Friday could not positively identify King as the culprit because the suspect wore a knit hat and a bandanna covering his face.

But other witnesses who testified for the prosecution told the jury they could identify King as having worn the same clothing -- the hat and a trench coat -- as the suspect seen in video surveillance footage taken of the incident. Both testified to having seen King standing outside the store just prior to the robbery, and one said she saw him running from the business after the incident. Two other witnesses, both with felony convictions and cases pending in the court, testified King told them he committed the robbery.

Vann told jurors the commonwealth's case rested on the testimony of the convicted felons and lacked scientific evidence, such as fingerprints or DNA.

Iden argued that witnesses placed the defendant at the crime scene and the convicted felons who testified did so without having struck any deals with the commonwealth.

If convicted, King faces five years to a maximum of life in prison for robbery and a mandatory minimum term of three years for use of a firearm in the commission of the felony.

King already is serving two years for committing assault and battery against a law enforcement officer in Frederick County the day after the robbery.

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