Cory Henderson did not enter a plea on the second-degree murder charge - a tactic apparently aimed at getting the jury not to convict him on that charge.
Henderson is accused of killing 28-year-old Eddie Ogburn in an accident in the early morning hours of August 30, 2009 as Ogburn was turning left into the entrance of his subdivision on Old Wake Forest Road.
Kristen Knutson, 30, was in the passenger seat and another friend, Jenny Ragone, was in the back of Ogburn's Jeep Cherokee.
Ragone testified at the trial earlier this week.
"There was a loud bang that came out of nowhere," she said. "I had idea what it was. Glass started spinning everywhere, debris flying. I had ... I was ... I had no idea what had happened."
Knutson says she soon realized Ogburn and Ragone were unconscious.
A short time later Ragone came to, but Knutson says it was obvious Ogburn was critically injured when the impact pushed him right up against her.
Raleigh police also testified that Henderson was drunk and fighting at a bar just before the crash. They said they told him not to drive, but saw him take off anyway.
As they tried to catch up to him, he crashed into Ogburn's car and then ran into some nearby woods before they caught him.
"The odor of alcohol was so strong coming from the defendant, I actually had to roll my windows down," Raleigh Police Officer J.D. Rattelade said.
Hours later, Henderson's blood alcohol was still five points over the legal limit.
After Henderson entered his surprise plea Friday, the jury was sent home. It will hear closing arguments from the prosecution and defense Monday morning.