|Jury Finds Client Not Guilty of Murder and Attempted Murder
CROWN POINT | After nearly eight hours of deliberations, a Lake County jury found a Gary man guilty of attempted battery with a deadly weapon in the death of another man.
Phanon M. Harper, 20, was acquitted of the more serious charges of murder and attempted murder. He was found guilty on all three counts of criminal recklessness.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Jatkiewicz said Harper was crossing the street July 26 in the 1500 block of Chase Street when a car containing Andre Pullen did not stop to let Harper and his friends cross the street.
Jatkiewicz said Harper was heard saying, “You better slow that (expletive) down before I slow that (expletive) down.” He then fired at the car, she said.
Pullen, 23, of Gary, was in the back seat of the car and was shot in the back. He later died at Methodist Hospital Northlake Campus, police said.
Jatkiewicz argued Harper fired at the vehicle because he felt disrespected by the driver, who did not stop the car. She suggested he didn’t want to appear weak among his friends as they walked through their neighborhood.
“Imagine a world where the wrong look, word or action causes a hail of gunfire,” Jatkiewicz told the jury.
Harper’s fate in the case appeared to hinge on if jurors would believe Jarodd Jones’ testimony that Harper was the shooter. Jones told detectives while he was an inmate at the Lake County Jail that he saw the shooting from the window of his home. Jones knew Pullen and Harper.
Defense attorney Scott King tried to discredit Jones’ testimony by saying Jones is addicted to marijuana. King flipped through pages of Jones’ criminal history as he told jurors that Jones only tied Harper to the homicide in hopes of striking a deal in his pending criminal cases.
King said the prosecutor’s office showed Jones his initial videotaped interview with detectives before testifying this week, which he implied was done so to coach him on what to say.
He asked jurors to recall Jones’ demeanor as he testified, and how he stumbled on details from that night such as if he saw Harper with a gun.
Jatkiewicz said Jones only had two months left to serve in jail and only had pending misdemeanor cases when he spoke to detectives. She said Jones didn’t get a deal from prosecutors and is now worse off because he will be labeled a snitch in the community.
The state again showed the jury the photo taken of Pullen postmortem by the Lake County coroner’s office. Jatkiewicz said Pullen was days away from turning 24 when he was killed.
“Hold the defendant accountable for his actions that night,” she said. “Don’t let him walk away, find him guilty.”
Elvia Malagon firstname.lastname@example.org, (219) 662-5331