Jamel Alexander stands as the jury enters the courtroom during his trial at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Jamel Alexander stands as the jury enters the courtroom during his trial at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Second trial in Everett woman’s stomping death ends in mistrial

Jamel Alexander’s conviction in the 2019 killing of Shawna Brune was overturned on appeal in 2023. Jurors in a second trial were deadlocked.

EVERETT — A Snohomish County judge declared a mistrial Monday as jurors were unable to reach a verdict in the second trial of Jamel Alexander, who was accused of stomping Shawna Brune to death in 2019.

After a three-week trial in Superior Court, the jury began deliberating around 9 a.m. Friday. Six hours later, jurors indicated they were deadlocked, but were sent back to deliberate. On Monday afternoon, they again reported they couldn’t reach a verdict.

“There is not a unanimous decision, what do we do?” jurors asked the judge Monday. “No one is changing.”

Surveillance footage showing Shawna Brune at a convenience store the night of her death is displayed during opening statements in the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Surveillance footage showing Shawna Brune at a convenience store the night of her death is displayed during opening statements in the new trial of Jamel Alexander on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

As Judge William Steffener announced the mistrial in the late afternoon Monday, people in the courtroom appeared exhausted. The case has now worn on for almost five years.

In 2021, a different Snohomish County jury convicted Alexander, 34, of first-degree murder, but the state Court of Appeals overturned that conviction and a prison sentence of nearly 29 years. Alexander’s appellate attorneys successfully argued their client could have been acquitted, if jurors had known about evidence that was suppressed in the first trial.

In its ruling in April 2023, the appellate court held two pieces of evidence — someone else allegedly admitting to the murder and a diary entry that raised questions about the time of Brune’s death — should have been put before jurors.

The second time around, jurors heard that evidence.

At 9 a.m. Oct. 12, 2019, a man walking his dog found Brune’s body near a parking lot off the 11600 block of Highway 99. She was nude, with shoe print marks across her body.

The night before, around 9 p.m., security footage showed Brune going into the woods with a man who appeared to be Alexander, wearing a maroon Puma jacket, a knit cap with an Oakland Raiders logo and Vans shoes. About 30 minutes later, Alexander left the area alone.

Detectives identified Alexander as the man in the footage by retracing his steps that night. He later conceded to paying Brune for sex, but claimed he didn’t harm her.

At the crime scene, investigators found Alexander’s DNA on the knit cap, along with Brune’s blood, court documents said. His DNA was also found on her body and clothes. Police noted a Vans-type shoe’s tread pattern throughout the crime scene, the kind of shoes Alexander was reportedly seen wearing in the security footage.

In a police interview, Alexander identified the Vans shoes and Puma jacket as his, claiming the clothes could be found in his apartment. Authorities were never able to find any of the clothes, according to court documents.

At the scene, police found Brune’s diary in her purse. One entry, dated the night of her death, appeared to be a note handwritten at 10 p.m. — after Alexander was seen leaving the woods.

Judge Steffener ruled the date and time of the diary entry could be used as evidence, but only for the purpose of impeaching the adequacy of the police investigation into Brune’s killing, according to court documents. The judge wrote the jury could not consider the evidence for any other purpose.

In the trial, the defense argued investigators were “blinded” by their pursuit of Alexander and didn’t look into other leads, including an apparent confession from other people who claimed to have killed Brune.

A week after her body was found, Brune’s ex-boyfriend, Vernon Butsch, reported to police that two people who lived in the same apartment complex and sold drugs to Brune described beating her to death in great detail. Police never interviewed a woman who purportedly confessed to killing Brune.

During the first trial, Superior Court Judge George Appel excluded the testimony as hearsay, basing his decision on how the woman who allegedly made the statements refused to testify, making her unavailable for cross-examination.

In the second trial, the defense argued Brune’s body was found on the trail leading to an apartment within the complex known for drug-related activity, with people constantly coming and going. The two who allegedly confessed to the killing were associated with the apartment, defense attorney Rachel Forde said.

Sheriff’s detective Brad Walvatne testified he reviewed 15½ hours of security footage taken from the apartment complex on the night of the slaying and the morning after.

The detective testified he saw a motion detection light come on near the trail where Brune’s body was discovered. That night, three men appeared in the surveillance footage. The manager of the apartment complex reported she did not know who the men were, according to court documents.

Police made a copy of the video covering the hours from 8 to 10 p.m. Walvatne testified he later went to look for the additional footage, but it was lost.

On Thursday morning, Butsch testified that at the time of Brune’s death, he was using drugs and had a major head injury, said Brune’s cousin, Jessie.

Butsch said his memory was bad, but he remembered being paranoid and trying to think of anyone who could have been involved. When questioned, Butsch testified that he accused multiple people of admitting to killing Brune.

Alexander observed the hearing in civilian clothes. He has past convictions on his record out of California, including assault with a deadly weapon in both 2005 and 2013.

Steffener scheduled a hearing for May 20 to set a date for a third trial.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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