Defendant in 2018 manslaughter case opts for trial instead of plea agreement

Defendant in 2018 manslaughter case opts for trial instead of plea agreement

May 14th, 2019 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

Jadarius Knox

Jadarius Knox

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

A 24-year-old man facing voluntary manslaughter charges in the 2018 death of his child's mother's ex-boyfriend is scheduled to stand trial next February after declining to plead guilty.

Jadarius Knox had the option to plead guilty Tuesday in Hamilton County Criminal Court and receive a four-year probation sentence in connection with the May 25, 2018, death of Dakota Biddle. On that day, police said, Knox shot Biddle once in the head after Biddle went over to his ex-girlfriend's duplex in the 7800 block of Basswood Drive to pick up his belongings, saw Knox, got upset and began attacking him.

Samantha Baltazar holds a photograph of her son Aaron Biddle at her apartment on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Biddle was shot and killed outside of a Chattanooga duplex in May by Jadarius Knox. Baltazar says she wants to set the record straight about who her son was after courtroom portrayals represented him as a violent aggressor.

Samantha Baltazar holds a photograph of her son...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

According to court testimony, Biddle tried to start an argument with Knox, threw a jar at him, and punched and kicked him before Knox ran outside with a gun that he'd recently found while doing community service. Police say Knox racked the weapon and waited outside. When Biddle walked out holding Knox's Xbox gaming system, he asked Knox if he was going to shoot him. Knox fired one round.

Though police said Knox didn't need to resort to such fatal violence, Knox's public defenders argued that he acted out of self defense. After a panel of grand jurors indicted him last fall for voluntary manslaughter, as opposed to a more severe murder charge, prosecutors and public defenders ultimately reached Tuesday's plea agreement.

But Knox decided not to plead after waiting much of Tuesday morning and afternoon in court, and attorneys instead set a trial date. There will be a checkup date before then in August and October before Criminal Court Judge Don Poole.

"An offer was made, and after some consideration, some considerable consideration, he decided not to accept the offer," Knox's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mike Little, said Tuesday.

Prosecutors declined to comment, which is not uncommon in a pending case. Voluntary manslaughter is a Class C felony that carries between three and 15 years in prison. But the actual amount of time a person spends in jail varies depending on their prior criminal history and their resulting sentencing range. Knox, who is out on bail, has one prior case in Hamilton County's court for possessing marijuana and speeding in a vehicle with an expired license, faces three to six years, and qualifies for the low range of punishment.

Samantha Baltazar, Biddle's mother, said four years of probation isn't a harsh enough sentence. She planned to read a victim-impact statement Tuesday about what's happened to her family since her son died. Biddle's sister, a straight-A student, has missed several days of school and had to see a therapist, Baltazar said. And Baltazar said she's personally been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and prescribed sleeping pills and antidepressants and anxiety medication.

Baltazar ultimately never read her statement. Shortly before lunch, there was a question about whether victims could make a statement at someone's guilty plea. Judge Poole said they can and called for a recess so both sides could eat first. Shortly after lunch, Knox declined to plead.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.


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