A jury of 12 Faulkner County residents was unable to reach a verdict following two days of testimony in the O'Dell Trial, ultimately declaring a mistrial Wednesday evening in the child porn case against the former Conway officer.
Dustin O'Dell, a 35-year-old Greenbrier resident who resigned from his position with the Conway Police Department in September 2015 in light of the child porn investigation launched against him, took to the stand Wednesday afternoon to testify on his own behalf.
As he faced the jury, 20th Judicial District prosecuting attorneys, his defense counsel, Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson Jr. and his family and close friends, O'Dell maintained he had no knowledge of the sexually explicit videos that exploited young children found on his laptop.
O'Dell said he never would have agreed to talk with authorities regarding the allegations against him if he was guilty.
"First and foremost, I had nothing to hide," he said of why he agreed to be unaccompanied by an attorney during questioning.
The former officer said he knows when police are investigating matters, they need all the information they can gather and that he wanted to help in any way he could. In his testimony, he also said he still feels he is a police officer at heart and wants whoever downloaded those videos onto his laptop to be punished for their injustice.
As evidence was laid out against the ex-cop before the jury, 20th Judicial District prosecutors questioned him about the way pornographic materials were saved and categorized on his laptop. During this portion of questioning, he was also asked about a statement he previously made to police regarding an "Asian fetish" he had.
"I wouldn't say I have a thing for Asian women," O'Dell said in response to Deputy Prosecutor John Hout's questioning. "Have I downloaded Asian pornography? I'm sure I have."
However, a statement he previously made during questioning at CPD hinted he had more than a liking for porn featuring Asian actors, Hout said.
"Fetish is a unique term," Hout said. "It's more extreme than a sexual attraction."
Linking this characteristic to the way pornographic videos were saved and organized onto O'Dell's laptop, the deputy prosecutor reiterated to the jury that O'Dell had several files that, according to previous testimony, would have had to of been deliberately labeled and the contents specifically placed within them. The folders in question were stored within the "Downloads" file on O'Dell's laptop. The Downloads file contained a separate folder labeled "Videos" and within that subfolder were several other folders including those labeled "Asian," "Fetish," "Young" and more.
Brian Williams, a CPD detective who is also a forensics expert, testified that each of the subfolders located in the Downloads file had to be specifically and deliberately created.
Hout agreed it would not be rational for someone who knew they had such contents stored on their laptop to bring the electronic device to a repair shop. However, those who find enjoyment in watching child pornography are not rational people, he said.
Whitney Dean, who is O'Dell's fiancee, testified she believed her husband was not guilty of viewing or knowingly possessing child pornography.
The two have been together for 11 years, and throughout that time "he has always been an honest man."
The long-time couple first moved in together in 2007. They stayed with O'Dell's sister and brother-in-law. O'Dell and Dean both testified they learned and were uncomfortable with his brother-in-law's unhealthy porn obsession after moving in with his sister in her Kentucky home. Dean said she stayed at that home for a few months before moving into her own apartment. She and O'Dell later moved in together before making the decision to move back to Arkansas.
While she knew O'Dell had a liking for adult pornography, she said she never knew him to watch or download child porn.
During the beginning of the couple's relationship, Dean said she wasn't very trusting of O'Dell due to issues in her past relationships. Because of this, she often snooped through his computer. At one point, she testified she would sift through the contents of his laptop at least once a week.
"I never found anything on that laptop that made me feel alarmed," she said.
Several close friends and family members testified before the court and said they do not feel threatened by the allegations against O'Dell and allow him to watch their young children frequently.
"Dustin's always been a guy who tells it like it is," O'Dell's childhood friend Emmanuel Berger said. "He's an honest man -- a man with high integrity."
During the second day of O'Dell's two-day jury trial, he was questioned about a desktop computer that had been in storage but was reportedly stolen in early 2013. O'Dell previously told authorities he used LimeWire on the desktop to download videos.
Hout asked O'Dell if it was possible he didn't know he had child porn on his personal laptop because he believed the videos in question to had been saved on the stolen computer, adding that O'Dell had used LimeWire to download videos onto the laptop computer in question as well.
O'Dell testified that he'd never downloaded pornographic videos that sexually exploited children and that he brought his computer to Luyet Computer Co. to be repaired so that he could access photos he'd taken when he was deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The photos he wanted to see after not having access to them in years contained "silly stuff" and also "some photos of guys who are no longer here," he said as he began to cry on the stand.
O'Dell, who joined the Army and became a part of the 82nd Airborne Division upon graduating high school, was visibly shaking and upset as he recalled wanting to look back on past memories with those who served alongside him.
During this portion of his testimony, several of his family members and close friends who sat in the audience to support him also wept.
O'Dell and his fiancee both told court officials many people had access to his laptop over the years, including former students at the university he once worked with along with his sister and brother-in-law when he lived in Kentucky.
Just before the jury left the courtroom to deliberate Wednesday afternoon, Deputy Prosecutor Cortney Kennedy reminded jurors the four videos in question found on O'Dell's laptop featured children under 10 years old.
As an officer found with such videos, she said he "violated the trust of the community" and deserved to be found guilty.
"There is evidence all over this computer of his disgusting interests," she said, adding that O'Dell's admittance of having a fetish for Asian women yet denial of everything else found on his laptop showed he was only distancing himself from the crime.
Annie Depper, who represented O'Dell along with Joseph Blake Hendrix, said there was no way it was possible for her client to "forget that filth" found on his laptop.
"Don't find him guilty because he was too trusting," she said to the jury moments before deliberation while referring to O'Dell allowing several others to use his laptop.
After deliberating for about three and a half hours, jurors ultimately said they were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that O'Dell was guilty. The jury was also not convinced he was innocent, and the trial was ultimately declared a mistrial.
Because the O'Dell Trial was declared a mistrial, prosecutors hold the opportunity to bring this case back before a jury. A December pretrial was scheduled in O'Dell's case, and a second jury trial will be scheduled for 2019 at that time.