BELTON — After 16 hours of deliberation Friday, a jury of four men and two women were unable to agree on the guilt or innocence of Army Master Sgt. Christopher “C.J.” Grisham.
About 4:30 p.m., Grisham and his attorney, Blue Rannefeld, emerged from the courtroom with their hands clasped and arms raised high to announce the judge declared a mistrial.
Because of the deadlock, Grisham will be retried Nov. 18 on a charge of interfering with the duties of a Temple police officer. He was arrested March 16 while on a 10-mile hike with his son, Chris, for a Boy Scout merit badge.
Grisham carried an AR-15 rifle and a concealed handgun, for which he had a permit. Grisham said he was carrying the weapons for protection against wild animals in the area.
Outside the courtroom, Grisham and Rannefeld were greeted with hugs and applause from a dozen or so supporters and courthouse regulars, many of whom came bearing toothbrushes to show that, like Rannefeld, they were willing to risk going to jail for a contempt-of-court charge to protest what they saw as Judge Neel Richardson’s favoritism toward prosecuting attorney John Gauntt Jr.
Rannefeld said the length of time the jury deliberated showed that Grisham committed no crime.
“We went out there to do a 10-mile hike,” Grisham said at a post-verdict news conference. “There wasn’t any law broken.”
Grisham said he has no plans to accept any plea offers in order to avoid a second, third or fourth trial.
“I will go through this as many times as the county wants,” Grisham said. “I will fight for liberty and freedom.”
Rannefeld said he hopes the issue of being able to openly carry a rifle or shotgun, which is not strictly prohibited under Texas law nor explicitly allowed, will be clarified by the Legislature.
Grisham said he plans to turn the nationwide support network that has emerged since his arrest into a lobbying organization to push for changes to state law. He specifically wants to see police departments implement training for how to handle individuals openly carrying rifles and shotguns in order to prevent this from happening again, he said.
While Grisham is prepared for another trial, he said he hopes it won’t happen. “We’re hoping common sense prevails.”
The county attorney’s office will decide whether to drop the charges or to go ahead with a second trial, Rannefeld said.
County Attorney Jim Nichols would not comment beyond saying the case is scheduled for retrial Nov. 18.