Jamaal Edwards's Mixed Verdict in Double Killing, Claimed Role of Acid

Update: Jamaal Edwards, who was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after a double homicide in January 2015, has been found guilty of a lesser charge in one of the deaths. In the second slaying, the jury failed to reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial. A new trial has been ordered in the latter case, which took place amid an ugly incident that Edwards is quoted as summing up with the two-word phrase "Shit happened."

Our most recent update, originally published on January 22, 2015, has been incorporated into page one of this post. Previous reports, supplemented by shocking statistics about fatalities among members of Denver's homeless community, can be found on page two.

According to Edwards's probable-cause statement, on view below, officers were dispatched to unit 102 at 1425 Xenia Street — a Colorado Coalition for the Homeless complex whose residents included many formerly homeless individuals — during the early hours of January 7, 2015, after a woman called 911 to say she'd discovered a friend of hers bleeding on the floor and apparently dead.

Upon their arrival, the cops found two victims: John Shoeboot, pronounced dead at the scene, and James Brown III, who died shortly thereafter at University Hospital. Autopsies showed that both of them died as a result of multiple sharp-force injuries.

Detectives subsequently learned that another 911 call had come in around the time of the slayings, this one from Edwards. During the conversation, he was quoted as claiming "he had seen someone murdered."

The next day, investigators tracked down Edwards. He initially said he'd seen an unidentified man stab Shoeboot and Brown to death. But the cops weren't convinced, owing to alleged inconsistencies in his account, not to mention two cuts on his right hand.

During another interview, the report quotes Edwards as saying he "argued and physically fought with the two men and 'shit happened.'" He added that after obtaining two knives, he blacked out. When asked who he'd stabbed first, Edwards said he didn't recall, though he did remember sticking a knife into a couch. He also acknowledged that he'd disposed of the clothing he'd worn that night, because the items had blood on them.

Shortly thereafter, Edwards was charged with first-degree murder in each death. But the details of the crimes were unclear from the beginning, with Edwards's mom telling at least one local media organization that her son said he'd taken acid during drinking games he'd been playing with the men and was unable afterward to remember precisely what had taken place.

Such factors may help explain the mixed verdict.

After a seven-day trial in April, the jury opted not to find him guilty of first-degree murder in Shoeboot's death, instead convicting him of second-degree murder — another charge that prosecutors with the Denver District Attorney's Office had included. But no conclusion was reached when it came to Brown's death.

The DA's office could have dropped the matter at that point. Instead, Edwards will be tried again for the Brown killing, with the start date for the new trial currently set for October 3 — several months after his scheduled June 23 sentencing for taking Shoeboot's life.

Continue for our earlier reporting.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts