LIMA — Family and friends of Jayleon’tre Harris present in the courtroom Thursday cheered and clapped as the jury passed a not-guilty verdict for the charge of aggravated murder with a firearm during the final day of Harris’s trial at the Allen County Common Pleas Court, with Judge Jeffrey Reed presiding.
The jury found Harris guilty on the second charge, aggravated robbery with a firearm, a first-degree felony, and found the prosecution did prove the firearms aspect of the charge.
Harris was facing charges of aggravated murder with a firearm, an unclassified felony, and one count of aggravated robbery with a firearm, a first-degree felony, for shooting and killing Eric Staup while attempting to rob the victim of marijuana and money at gunpoint during a drug deal at Staup’s home, 637 N. Metcalf St., on May 19, 2016.
At 10:30 a.m., the jury was sent on an early lunch after the prosecution and defense both rested so the court and attorneys could discuss details concerning evidence. Defense attorney Steve Chamberlain rested without presenting any evidence or witnesses. He made a motion to add a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter for the jury to consider in place of aggravated murder. Chamberlain said Harris had not intended to murder Staup and the death had only occurred because, as Carlos Maldonado testified to on Wednesday, Staup had lunged for the gun Harris wielded and a brief struggle occurred.
After careful consideration Reed rejected the motion, citing the number of shots fired, placement of the wounds on Staup and the close range of the attack did not support the involuntary manslaughter regulations.
Purpose, what Harris meant to do, was the theme of both the prosecution’s and defense’s closing arguments.
Chamberlain said the evidence in the case — eyewitness account, Harris’s prints found on the rear passenger door of the car used to get to the scene and the defendant’s actions after the crime — could not be disputed. He said his client did attempt to rob Staup and was responsible for his death. However, being responsible for the victim’s death did not mean that was his purpose, Chamberlain said.
Staup’s wounds indicated there had been a struggle, he said. One bullet bounced off of the victim’s back, another went through his arm and into his chest and the third entered his chest right above his heart, all indicators of a struggle, Chamberlain said. Also, one of the bullets struck the coffee table below and behind Staup, another indication of the struggle, he said.
Assistant Prosecutor Kenneth Sturgill argued Harris’s purpose was obvious.
“When you pull a gun during a robbery, the purpose is clear,” said Sturgill, in response to the defense’s closing arguments. “Give me what I want, or I will kill you.”
Sentencing for the case is scheduled at 8:30 a.m. April 9 at the Allen County Common Pleas Court.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362