LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A jury has found a well-known hot dog vendor not guilty of murder in the road rage killing of Danny Wilson.
It took the jury less than two hours to make their decision after hearing closing arguments in the case on Thursday. The trial lasted for a week.
Donald Hayes testified on his own behalf on Wednesday, describing to jurors his version of what happened on June 21, 2014 when the shooting happened. Hayes said he was on his way home when a car driven by Wilson got in front of him on the Watterson Expressway and hit the brakes. The men then weaved in and out of traffic, passing each other. Wilson pulled into a bank parking lot off Poplar Level Road and Hayes followed. Hayes told the court he wanted to find out "what Wilson's deal was."
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The incident in the bank parking lot lasted only 13 seconds. Hayes said no words were exchanged between the two. Wilson broke Hayes' window with a bat and Hayes fired his gun. The bullet hit Wilson's car frame, splitting it in two and striking Wilson in the face. Wilson died at the hospital.
Hayes said he fired in self-defense and didn't know whether he had hit Wilson. Hayes said he went home and called 911 to tell police he had fired his weapon.
The special prosecutor, Barbara Whaley, said in closing arguments that Wilson was on his way to visit his mother and Hayes was stalking him. Whaley said this was not a case of self-defense.
Whaley declined to comment after the verdict and directed reporters to the Attorney General's office and they sent a statement. The statement reads: "In the decision reached today by a 12-person jury in the trial of Donald Hayes, our office respects the verdict issued by the jury and we appreciate their service."
Hayes declined to comment after he was found not guilty. His family clapped in the courtroom after the verdict was read.
Hayes' attorney Kevin Glogower said the verdict is a relief.
"Our condolences still go out to the Wilson family," Glogower said. "It's not a happy situation, but the jury got it right."
Wilson's family left the courtroom quickly and declined to comment.
LMPD Lt. Todd Kessinger said he had a feeling the outcome wouldn't be in their favor since the jury came back with a decision so quickly. Kessinger said he spoke to Wilson's family after the verdict and they were devastated.
"They're having a tough time with the verdict but, again that's how the system works," Lt. Kessinger said.
Hayes has been out on bond shortly after the incident happened but, now he's officially a free man. Hayes is known to many in the downtown area since he's been selling hot dogs for decades at Sixth and Jefferson Streets. Glogower said Hayes would not immediately be back to selling hot dogs outside the Hall of Justice.