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Mistrial Declared In Plastic Surgeon's Murder Case

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LUBBOCK (AP) — A judge on Wednesday declared a mistrial in the case of a Texas plastic surgeon accused in a murder-for-hire plot to kill a pathologist who was dating his ex-girlfriend.

State District Judge Jim Bob Darnell announced the mistrial on the 17th day of Dr. Thomas Michael Dixon's capital murder trial. Jurors deliberated about seven hours over two days but couldn't reach a unanimous verdict.

"We're relieved and disappointed at the same time," Dixon's defense attorney, Dan Hurley, said.

Jury foreman Doug Moore said five jurors were convinced Dixon was guilty of capital murder, while two didn't believe the circumstantial evidence proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He said the two would not vote to convict Dixon of capital murder, murder or manslaughter, while the five others wanted to at least convict him of murder or manslaughter.

Lubbock County District Attorney Matt Powell would not say whether there will be a retrial. He declined comment, citing Darnell's ongoing gag order in the case.

Dixon, 50, of Amarillo was accused of hiring his business partner, David Neal Shepard, to kill Dr. Joseph Sonnier III in July 2012 for three bars of silver valued at $9,000. Prosecutors have said that Shepard broke into Sonnier's Lubbock home and stabbed and shot the doctor several times with a gun Dixon had given him.

Dixon's attorneys worked to portray Shepard as an opportunist solely responsible for Sonnier's death, while Powell worked to piece together evidence to show Dixon's guilt, including scores of text messages between Shepard and Dixon in the weeks leading up to the slaying.

Dixon testified that he only wanted Shepard to videotape Sonnier cheating and that killing him was never part of their discussions. Dixon also told jurors he did not know how Shepard got the weapon, which belonged to Dixon.

Sonnier, 57, worked as the chief pathologist for Covenant Health System in Lubbock.

Shepard, who testified for the prosecution and agreed to a plea deal, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in September 2013.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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