Suspect walks away as verdict returned in trial

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A man on trial for first degree murder is missing after walking out of the court house moments before a jury delivered his verdict Saturday.

Dearick Stokes would be in prison right now for first degree murder, but instead he is a free but wanted man.

Marvin Ballin, Stoke's attorney, was shocked to hear the news.

"I was as shocked and surprised as I've been in my life," Ballin said.

Stokes is charged with shooting Bryan Hatchett, 29, while he was in a car on Warren Street over a year ago.

Investigators said the murder was part of an attempted robbery.

Ballin said Stokes always denied that he shot Hatchett.

"The guy in the back seat shot this man," Ballin said.

Ballin said Stokes was in the front seat.

Stokes was free on a $250,000 bond for the past four months.  His trial began on Tuesday.

"He'd been there in court every day on time," Ballin said.

At 4:30 Saturday afternoon, the jury foreman notified the judge that the jury had reached a verdict.

"My statement to my client was that it doesn't look too good for us," Ballin said.  "He was in the courtroom and said, 'I've got to use the bathroom'."

When Stokes did not return, Ballin went to check on him.  The bathroom was empty.

Ballin said he does not know what got into his client.  The jury foreman went on with reading the verdict.

The jury found Stokes guilty as charged.

The crime carries a life sentence with a possibility of parole after 51 years.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)