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Published: Thursday, 5/17/2007

Jury clears Toledo teenager of robbery, assault

After nearly three days of testimony, a Toledo teenager was found not guilty yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court for an early morning robbery in October that resulted in three victims being shot.

John Harris III, 17, was exonerated by a jury of all charges - two counts of felonious assault and one count of aggravated robbery.

The jury returned its verdict about 9 last night in Judge James Jensen's courtroom after more than six hours of deliberation.

According to testimony throughout the week, young Harris was one of three or four men who forced their way into a house at 962 Indiana Ave. about 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 27. Two victims were shot in the legs when the suspects didn't get any money.

A third victim was forced to take the men to the nearby Ann's Bar-B-Que and ordered to unlock the restaurant so that the men could take money from the eatery. The victim was shot in the leg before the suspects fled.

Joshua Elchert, who was one of the victims shot, testified earlier this week that he identified young Harris on the day of the attack but recently became concerned that he pointed to the wrong man.

Assistant Prosecutor Robert Miller said during closing arguments that both Mr. Elchert and Samuel Stuart, another victim, changed their story about who shot them only a week before the trial was to start.

He also pointed to testimony that indicated that perhaps members of young Harris' family offered money to the victims not to testify.

Defense attorney Peter Rost said during closing arguments that the jury had to judge the case on the evidence. He said that prosecutors relied on the former testimony of the two victims, even if their testimony in court this week was that they were unsure.

If convicted, young Harris could have faced up to 26 years in prison.

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