ASHEVILLE - After the verdict was read Amya Collington and her defense attorney, Chief Public Defender Sam Snead, began to cry and hugged.
After more than a day of deliberation, a Buncombe County Superior Court jury on Aug. 17 found 22-year-old Collington not guilty in the death of 25-year-old Dexter Grant.
Collington faced a first-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment under North Carolina law. She had been held in the county jail under a $1.5 million bond since she turned herself in June 22, 2021.
“We’re extremely happy,” Collington’s aunt, Latisha Collington, said after the trial. “We just prayed, prayed, prayed that God would know exactly what happened and set her free, and that’s what happened.
“She’s never been in trouble in her life, so I’m really happy that justice prevailed today … We’re sorry to the other family, but we thank God that she came home.”
Grant's family was not present for the verdict.
Facts established at trial, which began with jury selection Aug. 6, found that Collington shot Grant to death on June 21, 2021, a Monday night, at Pisgah View Apartments. But what jurors had to decide was whether it was murder or self-defense, with pieces of an AR-15 that Grant brought to the scene being a key piece of evidence for the defense at trial.
Issues between Collington and Grant started with something more trivial: a fight between two of their younger relatives at a Deaverview playground, according to testimony.
"Well, I can tell you it escalated to the point of someone getting killed," Grant's aunt, Karon Grant, said in response to a question from Assistant District Attorney Amy Broughton on Aug. 11.
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Jurors were given the options to convict Collington of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or to acquit her.
Earlier in the day, it appeared that the trial might end with a hung jury, with a foreperson telling the court that six jurors had taken one position, three were undecided and three had taken an opposing position.
After the verdict was announced, Superior Court Judge Daniel Kuehnert stepped out from the judge's bench and spoke to Collington's family.
When asked what he discussed with them, Kuehnert said that one of the advantages of the court system was that both sides of a story could be heard and that dialogue could be had among different communities.
"I'm so happy for Amya," Snead said. "I don't know how I can express that any better than I'm extremely happy for her. I know that's relatively simple, but that's it."
"Her story seemed to resonate so well with the jury, and they heard her story," he said.
"I thank the jury for their service and their careful consideration of the evidence presented in this case," District Attorney Todd Williams said in a message. "The Buncombe County DA's Office will continue to vigorously advocate for accountability for victims of violent crime, including victims who have no voice in court just as we did this week for Dexter Grant."
Asheville police reported 10 homicides in the city last year. There have been 11 so far in 2022.
Ryan Oehrli is the breaking news and social justice reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times. Send tips to email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Not guilty: Jury acquits Amya Collington in Pisgah View murder trial