“He actually won two jury trials in one week, a feat that I’m not sure any Philadelphia lawyer’s ever done,” said defense lawyer Charles P. “C.P.” Mirarchi III, who had been appointed to assist Jonathan Harris in three cases.
Jurors on Thursday acquitted Harris of first-degree murder in a 2001 street slaying. If convicted, he could have faced the death penalty. Harris, 34, isn’t in the clear yet, since jurors deadlocked on several lesser charges, including third-degree murder.
Assistant Philadelphia District Attorney Ed Cameron vowed to retry the remaining charges, eliciting a typically cocky quip from Harris.
“Are you sure you don’t want to quit while you’re ahead?” he asked the prosecutor.
And Harris, who spent 10 years in prison for a prior shooting, will defend himself in a fourth jury trial starting Tuesday, this time on an unrelated 2001 gun charge.
In the capital murder case, Harris was charged with killing Leon “Boo Burger” Bryant, 24, as Bryant drove near a West Philadelphia nightclub.
Three witnesses in the crowd of about 200 told police that Harris jumped on the hood of Bryant’s vehicle and was one of two men who pumped bullets into the car.
The other suspect has since been killed, as has Bryant’s passenger, a man named Joseph Pratt. Both slayings remain unsolved.
On the stand earlier this month – a move he later called a mistake – Harris acknowledged bad blood between Pratt and himself. But prosecution witnesses didn’t serve their side much better, one fleeing before trial and the other two wavering in their recall of events.
And Harris, a chess aficionado, countered each of Cameron’s witnesses with one who remembered things differently. He also hired two private investigators and a handwriting analyst to dispute statements that witnesses had given police.
“He referred to a trial as a chess game,” said Cameron, who said he had to worry about jurors rooting for the underdog. “You don’t want to look like you’re being too hard on him.”