First-degree murder charges were dismissed this week against a Minneapolis man after his second trial ended with a hung jury.
It remains to be seen whether Jermaine Edward Harris, 28, will be set free nearly a year after he was charged with shooting and killing Richard Jinkins on Nov. 21, 2012, and leaving his body near an Interstate 94 wall in north Minneapolis.
In two trials, one in June and one last week, two Hennepin County juries were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. On Monday, Judge William Koch declared a mistrial in the second case, and the next day he dismissed the charges against Harris in an order that will take effect next week.
In the meantime, Harris remains in the Hennepin County jail. Hennepin County Attorney spokesman Chuck Laszewski said the office is still deciding whether to bring charges against Harris a third time. The office would need to reconvene a grand jury to indict Harris for first-degree murder.
Throughout both trials, Harris’ attorneys, Eric Newmark and Jill Brisbois, argued that conflicting witness statements failed to prove that Harris was the shooter, along with a lack of DNA, fingerprints or murder weapons.
Jinkins was shot and killed the night he, Harris, and two other friends drank and smoked PCP in a vehicle parked by the freeway wall. A witness eventually said there had been hostility between Harris and Jinkins because Jinkins had slept with Harris’ former girlfriend and the mother of his child. The witness claimed Harris shot Jinkins after he got out of the car to urinate.
However, at trial, another key witness, James Hill, recanted earlier statements to a grand jury that implicated Harris in the crime and refused to testify against him, even with a grant of immunity.
Because neither trial ended with a verdict, it would not constitute double jeopardy to charge Harris again, nor is there a statute of limitations on murder. However, because prosecutors made two attempts to convict Harris, Koch dismissed the charges “in the interests of justice,” Newmark said.