Ken Taylor and the Death of Jordan Shelton
The jury of ten women and two men who would decide the future of Ken Taylor began their deliberations on Thursday, October 15, 2009. Unable to reach a verdict, they returned the next day; and after working through a pizza lunch, they sent out a note announcing that one juror had gotten sick and vomited -- and could the court please send some crackers and Sprite. Still, the jury persevered and as juries are wont to do, reached a verdict on Friday October 15, 2009 at 3:30 pm. All told, the panel spent six and a half hours deliberating Taylor's fate.
After the attorneys and family members from both sides gathered in the courtroom, the verdicts were announced. Kenneth Taylor was found not guilty on the top counts of First-Degree Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse, but guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter and Reckless Aggravated Assault. Although the drama was heightened by several "not guilty" verdicts before the "guilty" verdicts were read, Ken Taylor showed no emotion as the verdicts were announced. Jordan's mother and stepfather would not comment to the media directly after the verdict, but told prosecutors they were pleased that the jury found Taylor accountable for the teen's death.
Sentencing and Aftermath
Ken Taylor's sentencing hearing took place on December 17, 2009. Judge John Duggar addressed the court for 45 minutes before prefacing his decision with this: "Bottom line. You killed a kid. You gotta go to jail." With that, Duggar sentenced Taylor to five years in prison for the death of Jordan Shelton. Duggar rejected a defense motion for leniency, insisting that the foster father should have known better. The judge chastised Taylor: "You're abnormally strong, and you wanted to show who was boss. 'Bring 'em on. I'm Ken Taylor'." However, Judge Duggar allowed Taylor to remain free on bond (as he had throughout the trial) pending his appeal.
As fate would have it, Ken Taylor would never serve out his sentence. On April 10, 2012, before the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals published its decision on his case, Ken Taylor passed away from what was believed to be a heart attack.
While the family of Jordan Shelton would never again share the company of the young man or see him grow up, they did find some measure of justice in the legal system. Shortly after Jordan's death in 2007, his surviving family sued Omni Visions (the private company to which DCS outsourced many foster home placements) for $40 million in damages for wrongful death. The suit was ultimately settled out of court for an undisclosed -- and certainly much smaller -- sum of money.