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Deliberations begin in Ruby Gunner trial - 12 News KBMT and K-JAC. News, Weather and Sports for SE Texas

Jury finds Port Arthur teacher Ruby Gunner not guilty

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BEAUMONT -

The Jury in the trial of a Port Arthur teacher accused of third-degree injury to a child has returned a not guilty verdict.

Ruby Gunner, 63, of Port Arthur, is a teacher at Robert E. Lee Elementary.  She is currently suspended pending an appeal of her dismissal by school board members.

Prosecutors say she attacked a student in April of last year.   Jury members, who began deliberations shortly before noon Wednesday, did not agree that there was enough evidence to convict her and returned the not guilty verdict just after 2 p.m.

"You don't have to remember the truth, and what the jurors experienced, the discrepancies in the various testimony let us all know that those statements were conspired.  They were already written, but the witnesses couldn't stick to the script," said Gunner shortly after the verdict.

The Port Arthur ISD Superintendent issued a statement concerning Gunner's status with the district shortly after the verdict was announced.

"The district is aware of the Jefferson County jury verdict of not guilty concerning Ms. Ruby Gunner. At this time the district intends to proceed with its proposed termination of Ms. Gunner's teaching contract. The district will continue to ensure the safety of all students in its care through adherence of district policies by employees." said Superintendent Dr. Mark Porterie in the statement.

This is a developing story.  Check back for updates.

Gunner spoke with 12News days after the incident and said that a student, then 11-years-old, assaulted her and that she defended herself.

She says the 11-year-old student initiated the confrontation, that he went after her twice, by pushing her and kicking her in the stomach.

Gunner, a 40-year veteran educator, says she fought back in self-defense.

She told us, "If a kid is pushing and hitting on anybody, you have this instinct, you are going to do what you need to do to defend yourself."

The student's mother, Melissa Taylor, also spoke with 12News last year.  She said Gunner did not act in self defense. 

A Jefferson County Grand Jury indicted Gunner in May 2013.  Gunner turned herself in and bonded out until the trial started this week.

In January of this year, the Port Arthur Independent School District Board of Trustees voted 4 to 3 to approve a proposal to terminate Gunner's employment with the district.  She has appealed the board's decision.  She remains on paid suspension pending her appeal.

Tuesday was the first day of testimony.  The 12-year-old who accused Gunner of attacking him, Deshawn Willis, took the stand. He said there were two separate encounters on April 5.

He reenacted for the jury how he says Gunner tried to block him from leaving the classroom.  He said Gunner pushed him back first with one hand, then with two.  He said the third time, he tried shoving her out of the way and that's when she shoved him with her fist to the ground. He says at this point he kicked her in the leg.

The 12-year-old testified, "I kicked her while I was on the ground because she was over me about to punch me again. Then I ran around the classroom cursing at her."

Deshawn added a second fight started after a school counselor sent him to his next class and he said Gunner showed up in that room asking if he was bragging to other students about kicking her.

Deshawn says he told her, 'You better get your hands off me'

He said she was still squeezing his arms so he kicked her in the stomach and knocked her into the desk.

He said that's when Gunner started punching him in the chest and face and choking him while sitting on his legs.

The jury was shown pictures of his injuries.

Defense attorney Paul Darrow questioned Willis.

Darrow pointed out that Willis had been held back in Fourth Grade and suspended several times for fighting in the past.

Darrow also asked Deshawn if he remembered all of this from memory or did he just memorize his statement from a year ago.  He said some of it was from memory and some of it he read in his testimony from a year ago.

Erica Alvarez took the stand Tuesday.  She is the attendance clerk at Robert E. Lee Elementary in Port Arthur.

Alvarez testified that she received an alert from the emergency button in the classroom and when she got to the room Deshawn Willis was on the ground yelling, "She's going to kill me, she's choking me!"

The defense called no witnesses to the stand during the trial.

Third-degree felony injury to a child is punishable  by two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The district is aware of the Jefferson County jury verdict of not guilty concerning Ms. Ruby Gunner.  At this time the district intends to proceed with its proposed termination of Ms. Gunner's teaching contract.  The district will continue to ensure the safety of all students in its care through adherence of district policies by employees.

Ruby Gunner talks with media shortly after not guilty verdict

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