Former Virginia Tech LB Isi Etute was ruled not guilty by the jury on a second degree murder charge stemming from the death of Jerry Smith last year.
Was facing second degree murder charge, jury could have reduced to voluntarily manslaughter, found not guilty instead— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) May 27, 2022
Etute was acquitted fully on the charge with the jury also deeming him not guilty of a lesser voluntary manslaughter charge that the judge gave the jury the permission to rule on. This ruling comes almost exactly a year after the death of Jerry Smith during an encounter between Etute and Smith at Smith's apartment in downtown Blacksburg.
Etute was arrested days after the death of Smith and has been on house arrest largely in Virginia Beach over the past year leading up to his time in court over the past week.
The not guilty decision on the Etute case appears largely built on the defense's self-defense case as it was revealed in court that a knife was found under Smith's bed and that Smith reached towards that knife hidden under the bed. This made Etute feel that he was in danger of attack with Etute fearing that it was a gun not knowing what Smith was reaching for as Etute testified in court.
The prosecution appeared to pursue a downgrade by the jury of the second degree murder charge to voluntary manslaughter conceding in their closing remarks that Etute did not intend to kill Smith though trying to push back against the defense's case that Etute's actions were out of self-defense.
The defense's close was built around both the claims of self-defense due to the knife and the contrast in character of Etute's strong reputation and Smith's poor reputation. This included attorney Jimmy Turk making an impassioned statement about Etute's character saying "if I had a son, that's exactly who I would want him to be."
Defense attorney Jimmy Turk gave an impassioned closing statement, contrasting his client with the victim in stark terms, Turk said of the victim Jerry Smith, "everything he did was evil" https://t.co/CCVa3JTRBB— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) May 27, 2022
Turk started crying while Etute's family and friends sobbed in the gallery, "who is the real victim here?" and said of Etute, "if I had a son, that's exactly who I would want him to be" pointing at Etute— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) May 27, 2022
The judge ruled in favor of a motion on including a jury instruction on self-defense which was an important part of the defense's case.
The deliberations by the jury lasted a few hours on Friday afternoon before the decision came in the favor of Etute being acquitted on the second degree murder charge and a potential voluntary manslaughter charge.
The Roanoke Times has had detailed coverage of the three days of the trail and I would recommend that you would give their coverage a read for greater detail along with the Twitter feeds of Michael Niziolek plus The Athletic's Andy Bitter who were both covering the trial on site in Christiansburg.
One thing that many may be wondering is whether Isi Etute will now have to chance to return to Virginia Tech if he chooses to do so. Michael Niziolek of the Roanoke Times is reporting that Virginia Tech is declining comment at this time which shouldn't come as a surprise.
I should note that Virginia Tech has declined comment on the Isi Etute verdict, I've asked for clarification if he would be allowed to re-enroll to the school academically & also received a no comment, looking to see what the rules would allow, hoping they provide clarification— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) May 28, 2022
Even if Etute does have a path back at Virginia Tech, it would be surprising if he chose to do so rather than truly start fresh elsewhere whether that comes at the JUCO ranks, at a smaller school, or just elsewhere in general. Wherever he ends up should he choose to play football again, he should have his full eligibility though I'm not 100% certain about that at this time.
Those in support of Isi Etute appeared to feel vindicated including former VT RB Jordan Brunson and former VT DB Da'Shawn Elder with Brunson uploading this photo of the trio after today's decision.
Former VT football player Isi Etute was acquitted tonight, Jordan Brunson & Da'Shawn Elder (pictured) were both defense witnesses, Etute's lawyer Jimmy Turk hopes the players who testified "leave here in a much better frame of mind" https://t.co/29RoWtriHt— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) May 28, 2022
Both Brunson and Elder testified during the trial with Elder having been connected with Etute and Smith during an April meeting. Brunson was with Etute and former Virginia Tech RB Jalen Hampton on the night of Smith's death with Brunson and Hampton never entering Smith's apartment.
We will have more as this story develops.