After about 21/2 hours of deliberation, jurors found Alexis Simpson, 20, not guilty of first-degree murder and a host of lesser charges in the September 2011 slaying of 18-year-old Dominique Frazier. They rejected even the idea that Simpson acted in a grossly negligent way in the death.
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"Clearly, the jury felt she acted in self-defense," Griffiths said.
Frazier's family did not react audibly to the verdict and left the courthouse with sheriff's deputies as escorts.
The verdict punctuated an emotional final day of Simpson's trial — one in which the young woman delivered her first public account of the September 2011 incident that left her roommate fatally wounded.
According to Simpson's account, one of three young women who had fought her earlier was trying to pull her into a room at Bowie State University's Christa McAuliffe residence hall. Simpson testified Thursday that she swung a knife as she tried desperately to break away.
"I was just scared," Simpson said. "I didn't know what they were going to do."
Jurors could have convicted Simpson of charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter, depending on whether they felt her conduct was premeditated or intentional, and to what degree — if any — she acted in self-defense. Defense attorneys had argued that she should be acquitted of all the charges because she acted only to protect herself.
Prosecutors had accused Simpson of instigating two fights with Frazier, the second of which led to the stabbing. In closing arguments, Assistant State's Attorney Christine Murphy slowly retraced Simpson's steps as she retrieved a knife and went to her roommate's room.
"As she walked, she had time to think about what she was doing," Murphy said.
Simpson testified that she and Frazier began to fight Sept. 15, and soon two of Frazier's friends also were hitting her.
After the fighting ceased, Simpson went to her room and got a knife, she said. She said she knew Frazier owned a knife.
Simpson testified that as she returned to the bathroom, Keaira Johnson, one of Frazier's friends, tried to pull her into Frazier's room — an allegation Johnson denied.
Simpson testified that she swung the knife and apparently slashed Frazier, though she "never meant to stab her." Frazier, she said, stumbled into the hallway, clutching her neck.
"I started to panic," Simpson said. "There was, like, foam coming out of her mouth. I didn't know what to do."