Sean Patrick Foley

Sean Patrick Foley talks with his lawyer during the first day of his murder trial Tuesday.

“Not guilty.”

Those two words took a possible life sentence off the table for a Maryville man who was accused of first-degree murder for shooting a Beaver Drive man to death in 2018.

Deciding whether Sean Patrick Foley was guilty of a lesser-included charge of second-degree murder was another matter for the jury.

A heated discussion that could be faintly heard in the courtroom didn’t end a hopeless deadlock after Judge Tammy Harrington sent them back into chambers to resolve the issue.

“This court has no other choice but to declare a mistrial in this matter,” Harrington declared at 5:15 p.m.

Foley, 25, will find out Sept. 13 if and when the state will retry him for shooting Jimmy L. Shelton to death on Aug. 28, 2018.

Blount County Assistant District Attorney General Ryan Desmond declined to comment.

Harrington’s efficient pronouncement defined a trial as remarkable for the low-key, thorough cases the prosecution and defense both mounted as it was for the personal demons that haunted the Foley’s case.

Prosecutors claimed Foley murdered Shelton in a jealous rage after listening to the 44-year-old retail assistant manager negotiate a sexual contract with Foley’s then-girlfriend, Miranda Goddard.

The defense held that Foley believed he was saving Goddard from Shelton, who she had accused of sexual molestation that began in childhood.

Family members on both sides hugged and cried after it was over.

If Blount County prosecutors choose to pursue a second trial, Foley faces between 15 to 25 years in prison, defense attorney Aaron Kimsey said.

“I’m mildly disappointed, but at the same time, the results are good for my client,” Kimsey said. “I wish they had found him not guilty, as it should have been.”

Harrington accepted the defense’s motion to enter the jury’s decision, meaning Foley can’t be retried for first-degree murder in the case.

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