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Stiffler won't be retried in home-invasion shooting; homicide charge dropped

Stiffler won't be retried in home-invasion shooting; homicide charge dropped

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A deliberate homicide charge against a Helena man who said he shot a burglar in his home has been dropped. 

The trial of James George Stiffler ended with a hung jury Feb. 11, and he will not be retried on the charge per a ruling filed Tuesday afternoon. 

Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher filed a motion to dismiss the felony charge. District Judge Kathy Seeley, who oversaw the trial, accepted the motion. 

The jury was deadlocked after about 11 hours of deliberation when the nearly two-week trial ended. 

Gallagher said he decided to drop the charge after learning about the reactions from some of the jurors.

"I don't expect a different result if we try it again," he said.

"This seems to be the appropriate resolution," Gallagher added.

One of Stiffler's attorneys, Quentin Rhoades, said only two of the jurors wanted to convict his client. The other 10 jurors as well as the two alternates all would have opted to acquit Stiffler on the deliberate homicide charge. 

Rhoades, who spoke on behalf of his client, said he feels content with the outcome. 

"We are pleased and gratified," he said. "It seems to make sense."

"It's a great relief to be done," Rhoades added. 

The motion was filed and approved without prejudice, meaning the case could be reopened if new evidence appears. Gallagher said he doesn't anticipate that happening. 

Although Gallagher has been criticized for the amount of time and money spent on the trial, he said he does not regret filing the charge against Stiffler. 

"I think it needed to get filed," he said. 

Stiffler shot and killed a man he testified broke into his home, ransacked the residence and threatened him on May 22, 2013.

His defense attorneys argued the self-defense shooting was a justified use of force, and that the man brought his death upon himself.

Prosecutors contended it was the murder of a man, Henry Thomas Johnson, who posed no threat at the time because he was climbing out of a window in an attempt to escape.

A status conference in the case slated for Thursday has been canceled.

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