A Russell County jury charged with the retrial of James Allen Harrison Jr. now has to decide whether Harrison intended to rob Thomas Fred Day Jr. for crack cocaine money before slashing his throat on Jan. 13, 1998, according to court testimony.
District Attorney Ken Davis and Defense Attorney Walter Gray presented their final arguments before the jury Monday morning and afternoon before dismissing the jury to begin their deliberations. The jury deliberated for more than two hours before adjourning for the day.
Harrison, who was sentenced to death after his 2000 conviction, won a retrial after two jurors failed to answer accurately about their potential prejudices.
If Harrison is found not guilty of capital murder, the jury could convict Harrison of murder with intent, with an additional charge of first degree theft. Harrison's defense attorneys also say they will argue for Harrison's parole eligibility if he is not given a capital murder conviction.
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Three days after Harrison is accused of slicing Day's throat, Day's father found his son's bloody body lying in the living room of his 1707 18th Ave. home. Davis told the jurors in his final arguments that family members had been frantically calling the victim for days after failing to make contact with him.
"(Day's father) tried to get in the front door, and it was locked. He tried to go in the back cause he knew there was a concealed key Fred kept in case he ever locked himself out," Davis said. "He gets the key, he goes inside, and to his horror, ladies and gentleman, he finds his only son in his home, lying on his back, his throat cut literally from ear to ear."
Harrison was later arrested in Columbus when authorities found him in Day's car at the intersection Victory Drive and 10th Avenue, hours after relatives found Day's body. He initially told officers he was borrowing Day's car to look for a job, but later told a Phenix City officer he thought he "just nicked him on the side of his neck" after Day allegedly tried to punch him.
The prosecution argues that Harrison initially targeted Day so he could take his car, bedroom TV and large compact disc collection. Surveillance footage from a Phenix City pawn shop twice captured Harrison hocking $400 worth of Day's CDs and other electronics a day after the murder.
Although prosecutors argue Harrison took the CDs from Day's shelves, Harrison's defense argues some of the goods were already in Day's car.
Harrison later tried to sell Day's car to 62-year-old John Hinton's sister, who turned down the sale because of the suspicious $300 price on the 1989 Mazda 626, according to earlier testimony. Hinton, a man who made crack runs for Harrison, testified earlier in the trial that Harrison also tried to sell Hinton's sister the stolen TV. Gray, however, argued that Hinton's testimony was unreliable.
Gray also argued Day may have hocked some of the missing items himself to support his own cocaine addiction.
"They testified that he loved music and he loved CDs. He loved a lot of things. He also had a cocaine problem," Gray said. "He might have been selling off his own stuff to support his cocaine habit. Possibly a gambling habit, if you believe some of the testimony."
But Davis argued Day had no reason to sell his possessions, as he had a job and an ample supply of money. As a disabled man who had limited use of one of his legs and no use of his left arm, Day also would have no way to carry the heavy box of CDs that Harrison later pawned out to Day's car, Davis said.
"Fred Day Jr. is dead and has been dead for 16 years because this man, who we know is a crackhead and admits he is a crackhead, wanted some crack," Davis said. "He had no money he had no TV, he had no credit cards — but he knew somebody who did."
Davis emphasized to the jury that a toxicologist's testimony proved Day did not take crack cocaine for at least 12 hours before the murder — possibly for at least 72 hours before the murder. He had no alcohol in his system, belying Harrison's claims that Day flew into a drunken rage when Harrison failed to procure crack cocaine.
The prosecution showed numerous photos of the crime scene to the jury, including Day's bruised and scraped face, his throat gaping from the severe cut. His nose was fractured in two places, his larynx was smashed and the back of his throat could be seen from the gaping wound.
"That alone would have caused his death even if he hadn't been cut," Davis said.
During his final statements, Gray repeatedly reminded the jury that Harrison had admitted to killing Day. He said the burden rested on the state to prove Harrison intended to rob Day during the murder.
"It's just like I've said before: if you can't determine on your own from the evidence provided by the state that he had the intent to kill and the intent to rob at the same time, you have to find him not guilty of capital murder," Davis said. "The state's going to win this case either way."
The jury will resume their deliberations at 9 a.m. in the Russell County Judicial Center.