The jury seemed to struggle with this case, taking four days to finally reach their verdict. After nearly 24 hours of deliberations spread out over four days, it was the verdict the teen had been hoping for. The jury tells us they thought the 12-year-old girl acted in self-defense.
The girl, now 15, was all smiles after the verdict. You could see the relief in her eyes. Though she is now acquitted, we are still not identifying her because of her age. She and her family hugged jurors as they left.
It was April of 2009 when she shot and killed her father, 38-year-old Mark Nelson. Her attorney never argued that she pulled the trigger. Nelson was murdered in his sleep. Police recovered his .38 caliber revolver at the scene.
The girl's attorneys insisted she attacked him because he abused her for years, both physically and sexually. That assault came to a head that day of the murder, they say, after he watched her bathing in a tub inside their home.
The girl told authorities she ordered her father out of the bathroom and that he told her she would regret it. Defense attorneys say she feared for her safety and that when she later got out of the tub, she got his gun and shot him while he slept.
The notion of self-defense was rejected by prosecutors. They claimed the girl simply thought Nelson was too strict, noting that she never cried out about the alleged abuse the day of the murder or even within a short time after.
The girl faced a potential of up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Her family says they are now relieved beyond words.
The teenager, who is now 15, is home with her mother. They are glad that they can put this past them, but there is one relative who will never get over it.
"I was excited. I was scared, very scary. I get to take her home. I'm OK," said the girl's mother, Miranda Jackson.
"All I got to say is God is an awesome God. We thank everyone who has prayed for us, that we got through it. It's been three years going," said the girl's grandfather, Montsanto Jackson.
"We're very happy. We already knew she wasn't guilty. She wasn't guilty; not for the things that had happened to her," said the girl's step-grandmother, Diane Jackson.
But for Mark Nelson's side, there will never be peace.
"She's been set free so she can do whatever she wants on the streets," said Mark Nelson's mother, Leona Nelson. "That was the best defense in the world for a little girl to accuse your father of abusing you because people do not want to believe that a 12-year-old child would go in there and kill her father unless he abused her."
Few of the jurors spoke in any detail about their decision.
"We just looked at the evidence. The evidence was what brought us to the decision of self defense," said juror Yvette Cardenas.
It was a verdict that left jurors in tears.
Eyewitness News had a long talk with the teen while we were waiting for the jury to render its verdict. She is going to high school now, taking Advanced Placement classes and thinking about college, and what she wants to be when she graduates. She tells me she might want to work in the courts one day as an attorney. Fitting for a girl who today found justice here.