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State intends to retry former teacher’s trial, attorney says

CLEVELAND COUNTY, Okla. - State's attorneys say they will retry a trial against a former Tishomingo teacher accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a teenager.

After nearly ten hours of deliberation, a mistrial was declared late Thursday night in the case versus 50-year-old Shelley Duncan. She was arrested in 2016 and charged on one count of lewd acts with a child.

Prosecutors spent three days trying to convince a jury of 12 that Duncan should serve jail time for allegedly engaging in sexual acts with a then 14-year-old boy. They claimed the two inappropriately touched and kissed each other in her truck and on school property.

Jacqui Ford, a trial attorney in Oklahoma City, did not represented Duncan in this case but she says she has had similar cases.

"The problem is, the law is designed to be pretty strict liability and the prosecutors see these cases as black and white," said Ford. "The problem is, the rest of the world outside of law enforcement sees gray."

Dane Towery, an attorney with the Cleveland County District Attorney's Office, represented the state in this trial. He declined to speak with News 4 on camera Friday, but he said his team was confident in the the evidence presented during trial which included more than 7,000 text messages exchanged between Duncan and teenager.

According to prosecutors, Duncan texted the teenager things like "I love you" and that he was "perfect in every aspect." They claimed the teenager once texted Duncan about taking care of his mother but that he wanted to see her, to which she responded "That may be the hottest thing you've ever said."

Prosecutors alleged this was part of a "grooming" process used by Duncan. Karla Docter, a Senior Director of Sexual Violence Protection at the YWCA, said grooming is used to build a relationship of trust with another individual and make him or her vulnerable.

While Docter did not want to comment directly on this trial, she did tell us "Texting is a huge form of communication in this day and age, so I mean, depending on what those text messages are, they could absolutely be a part of a grooming sequence, depending again on what those messages are, if it’s talking about building this relationship, building this trust."

Gary Wood, an attorney for Duncan, told the jury they could not believe "a word [the teen] says" and claimed he was proven to lie in the past and that his story has not remained consistent during the case. He declined to comment following court Thursday night.

"The allegations aren’t enough and you have the main accuser who has been caught in telling different stories, his credibility becomes an issue," Ford said. "Let us not forget that the burden is on the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, all of the elements of the crime alleged, and they have to do that with credible witnesses."

If the state does actually retry this case, Ford says they essentially have to start over.

"You’re going to get a whole new panel of jurors from the community, and you’ll have to start the whole trial over again," she said. "So, the evidence that went in before and the objections that were made before get to be resubmitted and remade again, so the evidentiary rules might be different this time."

A retrial date has not been set yet. Towery said the trial would likely remain in Cleveland County.