After deliberating about six hours Friday, a Hamilton County juror found a 44-year-old man not guilty of intentionally shooting and killing his girlfriend during an argument in 2017.
Jurors returned their verdict in the second-degree murder trial of Reginald Oakley, sometimes referred to as Reginald Woods, around 6 p.m. in Hamilton County Criminal Court. Oakley shook hands with his lawyers while his family wept happily in the gallery.
Friends and relatives of Katrina Holloway, the victim, were dismayed, with one saying in the courtroom that Oakley "murdered my cousin and he got away with it."
At stake was closure for Holloway's family and a potentially lengthy prison sentence for Oakley, whose prior criminal history would've placed him on the higher end of the second-degree murder sentencing range. Second-degree murder is a Class A felony, which carries 15 to 60 years in prison, and Oakley also faced a second felony charge of employing a firearm during a dangerous felony offense.
Chattanooga prosecutors said Oakley shot and killed Holloway during an argument in a College Hill Courts apartment in the early morning hours of July 20, 2017.
But on the witness stand and through his attorneys, Oakley said he was asleep in the residence when he awoke to a phone call from one of his friends about going to Atlanta. That upset Holloway, who had been drinking and doing cocaine that night, and she suspected him of cheating and grabbed a silver revolver out from under one of the residence's couch cushions, according to the defense.
As they argued over the gun, Oakley said, it accidentally went off and resulted in Holloway getting shot once in the chest. His attorneys argued that he contacted 911, tried to get additional help from a friend, and performed CPR. He never wavered in his story to police, attorneys said, but authorities rushed to judgment on the heels of a medical examiner's opinion that Oakley's version of events wasn't possible.
Prosecutors, who did not play Oakley's police intervew for jurors, added that the silver revolver disappeared from the scene and suggested Oakley was responsible. During the trial, they called Holloway's teenage son to the witness stand. According to trial testimony, Holloway's son said he was playing video games and came downstairs when he heard a loud bang.
"They were arguing and [Holloway] told [the son] go on upstairs," Assistant District Attorney Leslie Longshore said during opening statements. "And he starts up the stairs, but he stops he gets to a point where he can see them but they can't see him He sees Reggie get his gun from between the base of the sofa and the cushion as they're arguing [over a cellphone]."
Oakley's lawyers, Steven Moore and Fisher Wise, countered that Holloway's son gave that account to authorities the second time he spoke with them. During the first time he spoke with them, Holloway's son told an officer on scene that he was upstairs the whole time and didn't see anything, Moore told jurors.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.