Three days of testimony and hours of deliberation ended Friday in a hung jury and a mistrial declared in the case of a local minister accused of having sex with an underage girl over a seven-month period in 2010.
Stephen Douglas Berry, 38, 848 Bob Little Road, Jonesville, was arrested in 2011 and charged by the Union County Sheriff’s Office with criminal sexual conduct with a minor second-degree. Berry, the former associate pastor of New Life Baptist Church, is accused of repeatedly having sex with the victim, who was 15 at the time, between May 2010 and Nov. 2010.
On Tuesday, Berry’s case went to trial before Judge Ned Miller of Greenville. Berry was represented by defense attorney Melinda Butler while the state’s case was presented by Sixteenth Circuit Deputy Solicitor John Anthony. After three days of testimony by witnesses for both the state and the defense, the jury got the case late Thursday afternoon and deliberated until early that evening when they were allowed to adjourn until the next morning. After resuming deliberations, however, Union County Clerk of Court Freddie Gault said jurors informed the judge that they were deadlocked. Gault said Miller brought the jury back out and spoke to them and then sent them back to resume deliberations. Later that afternoon, Gault said the jury informed the judge that they still could not reach a verdict and he declared a mistrial.
After the mistrial was declared, Anthony said the solicitor’s officer will seek to retry the case at a later date. He said the date of the retrial will be determined based on the availability of witnesses and space on the court docket.
Gault said that while Berry awaits retrial, he will remain under electronic monitoring and will be permitted to leave his home only to go to work, meet with his attorney, attend church, and medical appointments. He is also to have no contact with the victim or her family.
Since being arrested for criminal sexual conduct with a minor second-degree, Berry was arrested in April 2011 by the sheriff’s office for sex/lewd act upon a child under 16 for allegedly inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl on numerous occasions during the summer of 2008. A few months later he was arrested by the Union Public Safety Department for criminal sexual conduct third-degree for allegedly engaging in sexual battery of the victim between Feb. 1 and July 8 of 2011. Unlike the two previous cases, the victim was not a minor but was described in the incident report as being mentally defective. Anthony said Friday that both of these charges are still pending against Berry.