DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A Volusia County judge is ordering that the jury remain anonymous following the Othal Wallace trial. Wallace was convicted last week in the killing of Daytona Beach Officer Jason Raynor.
Wallace was facing first degree murder and would have faced the death sentence if guilty of that, but the jury found him guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter.
The judge’s order cited public and media attention to the case among the reasons to keep the juror’s identities hidden.
A lot of attention has been coming from local law enforcement who said they are still shocked and confused by the verdict.
“It reopened a wound that nobody really envisioned would happen after that verdict was announced,” said Mike Scurdiero, Executive Director of the police union that includes Daytona Beach officers.
Scurdiero said the verdict sends a message that no one has to listen to the police and does not believe manslaughter matches any of the actions committed by Wallace the night of the shooting.
“Manslaughter, and I think most people hear that term and think accidental, they think oops, something bad happened that maybe shouldn’t have. That’s not what happened that night,” he said.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood also weighed in on the verdict this week.
“This basically signals it’s open season on cops,” he said.
Prosecutors were seeking a first-degree murder conviction. They argued Raynor was acting lawfully in approaching and questioning Wallace that night in June 2021 before Wallace shot and killed him. They also argued that by law, police can legally question anyone.
Wallace’s defense team argued he shot Raynor in self-defense. Wallace testified he was in fear for his life.
Now convicted of manslaughter, Wallace will face a maximum of 30 years in prison.
“Someone who was a militia member, who had military-grade weapons when he was caught, that’s someone who is now going to walk free after murdering a cop 20 some-odd years from now,” Scurdiero said.
Criminal defense attorney Mark O’Mara followed the trial and said he believed it was a compromised verdict.
“They compromised between what the state wanted, first degree, and what the defense wanted, an acquittal, and decided in their own minds manslaughter was the best solution,” he said. “By their questions and by their verdict, they were spreading around the blame or responsibility for what happened that day to both individuals.”
The jury was released after the verdict was read but now the new order from Judge Raul Zambrano said their identities cannot be released by anyone involved in the case. The order also cited social media postings that could be construed as bitter and at times hostile.
“Now we are in this hyperreactive society right so everything that happens we have a reaction to, and I think the judges are being more affirmative at protecting the jurors,” said O’Mara.
The judge said Wallace’s sentencing will likely happen in two months. The state attorney’s office said it will make a formal response to this verdict at that point.
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