Stephens County jury finds Blair innocent of murder
After eight and a half hours of deliberation, a Stephens County jury found Elton “E.C.” Carroll Blair of Graham not guilty for the murder of 22-year-old Graford mother Leah Martin.
Following closing statements from the prosecution and the defense, the jury began deliberating at 11:45 a.m. and continued for nine hours before reaching a not guilty verdict.
“The most swaying factor was the circumstantial evidence,” said David Wimberley, Blair’s defense attorney. “Some of it, when they argued it to a jury, didn’t make common sense. When you try to prove a case on circumstantial evidence without common sense, you’re going to get a not guilty verdict.”
Wimberley said he felt he won the case after numerous witnesses were released without giving testimony Wednesday afternoon. During his closing statements, Wimberley noted the only testimony directly linking Blair to Martin’s murder was from Billy Minkley Jr. In exchange for his testimony, Minkley accepted a plea deal for life in prison without the possibility of parole for Martin’s death. He had previously confessed to Fort Worth area law enforcement to committing an unrelated triple homicide in 2014.
“Bill Minkley, who is a serial killer in my books and he took a life sentence over lethal injection and he was scared of lethal injection,” Wimberley said.
Believing many area residents may have already found his client guilty in the eyes of social media, Wimberley said a change of venue allowed Blair to receive a fair trial.
“It was an uphill battle, but getting out of Young County and getting it over here to people with fresh ears made all of the difference,” Wimberley said.
By the seventh hour of deliberation, 90th District Judge Stephen Bristow received a note from the jury stating it had been in locked 10 to 2 with 10 seeking to acquit Blair. Nearly an hour before the jury reached a verdict, District Attorney Dee Peavy approached Martin’s family telling them, “We lost. I know we lost.”
Although Blair’s trial has come to an end, Peavy said she is not finished seeking justice for Martin’s death.
“We’re disappointed in the verdict, but we know the jury were very attentive and worked hard,” Peavy said. “Circumstantial evidence cases are tough … We feel badly for the Martin family, but we intend to go forward and prosecute the co-defendant Ross Hellams.”