A mistrial was declared Wednesday (July 2) in the murder trial of a former Razorback football player accused of killing a friend after a night of drinking, according to the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
The mistrial was declared after two jurors were dismissed, leaving the jury box one short of the required 12.
One juror was dismissed after nodding off and conceding he had not heard all the testimony. An alternate was available to take that juror's place, but then another juror approached the judge later that same day and said she was not emotionally equipped to handle the testimony in a murder trial, officials said.
A retrial was set for Oct. 20.
Joshua Melton’s second-degree murder trial before Washington County Circuit Court Judge William Storey began Tuesday, a day after the jury was selected.
Melton was arrested Aug. 28, 2013, after going into a “rage” and punching 30-year-old Michael Gover multiple times, according to a preliminary report from the Washington County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The West Fork resident was found dead in Melton’s home in Fayetteville.
Melton was released from the Washington County Detention Center on Aug. 29, 2013, on a $100,000 bond. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in October 2013.
Melton was arrested in connection with Gover’s death after telling a 911 operator he was unable to wake the victim after a fight following an all-night alcohol binge, according to the preliminary report.
Police found Gover dead inside the house near the front door. He had blood on his face and chest, according to the report.
Responding officers found Melton sitting in his driveway with his hands covered in blood. He was slumped and crying, the preliminary report states.
Melton and Gover had been drinking until about 2 a.m. at Hooters and J.J.’s Grill in Fayetteville, police said. They drove to Melton’s home at 6316 W. Copper Ridge Lane and drank more alcohol. Melton told police he last saw the victim lying on the floor breathing, the report states.
Police said the altercation was preceded by the victim vomiting on the suspect’s carpet. Melton allegedly confronted the victim, and the victim responded with “lewd comments,” according to the preliminary report.
The victim then grabbed Melton inappropriately, leading to a fight between the two men, the report states.
Melton went to bed after the altercation and found the victim unresponsive when he woke up and checked on him, the report states. Melton later admitted to police his earlier comments about he and the victim “swapping licks” were made because the suspect knew “he went too far,” according to the report.
“The initial call he made a statement that they had been kind of exchanging licks, making it almost sound like it was some type of game, just trading punches as it were, but as we got into it a little bit further we realized that was not the case,” said Sgt. Craig Stout, Fayetteville police spokesman.
The responding officer states in the report that Melton was “cooperative and concerned throughout the interview.”
“He maintained there was never any intention to cause the victim’s death,” the officer states in the report.
The six-foot-five, 289-pound Melton, who played at Batesville High, was a center on the Razorback football team that went to the Cotton Bowl under coach Houston Nutt in 2001, losing 10-3 to Oklahoma, according to arkansasrazorbacks.com.