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Deal limits time behind bars

A Toledo man who police said shot a woman to death in 1994 will be released from prison in 2004 after cutting a deal yesterday with the Lucas County prosecutor's office.

Terrance Hamilton, 26, will be granted judicial release from a 5 to 25-year prison sentence after he completes a 51/2-year federal term for an unrelated bank robbery.

Common Pleas Judge James Bates approved the plea bargain, which called for Hamilton's conviction on one count of involuntary manslaughter.

He had been charged with the aggravated murder of Linda Johnson, 21, and attempted aggravated murder of Malcom Riley, who were shot while standing with others on Ms. Johnson's Page Street porch. Police believe she was the unintended target in a gang shooting.

In 1999, Hamilton and a co-defendant, Dwight Ballard, 24, who is serving 11 to 20 years in prison for an unrelated shooting, were tried for her murder.

Judge Bates declared a mistrial when Danny Navarre, a Toledo police detective, mentioned a booking photo of Hamilton while he was testifying. The reference was inappropriate because it could have indicated to the jurors that Hamilton had been in trouble with the police before.

The prosecution's case wasn't going well before the mistrial was declared. The state's star witness, Corin Qualls, said he saw Hamilton with a gun just before the shooting, but only identified Ballard after he was pressed. Qualls, 22, who is serving a six-month sentence at the Correctional Treatment Facility, was apparently reluctant to testify.

Thirteen of the 14 jurors hearing the case said after the mistrial they would have acquitted the men.

John Weglian, chief of the special units division, said the state's weak case led to the plea agreement.

Judge Bates said he approved the deal because the evidence wasn't strong at the first trial. The judge said the agreement allows him to supervise Hamilton after his release from prison and makes it possible to reinstate the sentence if he violates the terms of his community control.

Charges against Ballard have been dropped. He would have to be re-indicted if he is to be tried again for the murder.

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