CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WSET) — Former Virginia Tech Football player, Isimemen Etute, who was charged with second-degree murder, was found not guilty after the 3-day-long jury trial.
He was charged with murder in the death of 40-year-old Jerry Smith.
The jury deliberated for about three and half hours before the verdict was in.
Attorneys on both sides claimed Etute met Smith over a dating app, where Smith posed as a 28-year-old woman named Angie Renee.
Etute said in his testimony that he met Renee on April 10, 2021 and met again on May 31, 2021.
Earlier in the trial, Etute testified that the reason for the May 31 meeting was to find out whether Renee was a man or a woman. He said that when he realized that Smith was a man, he started punching Smith and when he thought Smith was reaching for a weapon, he hit him again.
Police did find a knife under the mattress of the bed, but Etute said in his testimony that he was unaware of that.
Before the jury deliberated, the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments.
In his closing statement, the commonwealth’s attorney explained to the jury that to convict Etute on the second-degree murder charge, it doesn’t have to be proven that he intended to kill.
He also pointed out how Etute testified that he thought Smith was reaching for a weapon but did not mention this to police.
The commonwealth’s attorney recalled evidence and testimonies, arguing that Etute not only killed Smith but also acted in malice.
During the trial, the defense argued that Etute acted in self-defense. In the defense attorney’s closing statement, he argued that police did not ask Etute whether he saw a reach for a weapon or if Etute was in fear of his life.
He claimed that the commonwealth's case was circumstantial and that there was no evidence of malice in the case.
He went on to ask the questions, "Who is the real victim here?", "Who would more likely be the aggressor?" and "The man who had the knife or the shy, goofy 18-year-old kid?"
After the verdict, the Defense Attorney Jimmy Turk said he wasn't in shock but it's always nerve-wracking wondering if you've convinced a jury.
"I am just thankful for this jury, it is the right decision and right now I'm still just overwhelmed," Turk said.