For the second time, a Russell County jury has ruled James Allen Harrison Jr. meant to rob and kill Thomas Fred Day Jr. when he slashed his throat during a Jan. 13, 1998 confrontation inside the victim's 1707 18th Ave. home.
The jury delivered their unanimous capital murder around 11:45 a.m., after deliberating for a combined four hours between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Harrison's defense attorneys asked that each juror confirm their conviction aloud before Judge Albert Johnson schedule a time for the court to reconvene on sentencing.
The 16-year-old murder began when Harrison sliced Day's throat "literally from ear to ear" in his home before taking $400 worth of compact discs and electronics from the Phenix City man's home. Defense Attorney Ken Davis told the jury Monday Harrison beat Day and slit his throat to feed his crack cocaine addiction.
"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 Monday. "He had no money he had no TV, he had no credit cards — but he knew somebody who did."
Defense attorneys were unsuccessful in proving that the stolen property, which Harrison later hocked at a Phenix City pawn shop, was actually in Day's car before the murder took place.
Harrison was later arrested in Columbus after an officer spotted him in the stolen 1989 Mazda 626 near the intersection of Victory Drive and 10th Avenue. He initially told police Day allowed him to borrow the car to look for a job, but later admitted to slicing the man's throat, saying he "just nicked him on the side of his neck."
In crime scene photos shown during the trail, the back of Day's throat was visible from the gaping wound. Day's face, bruised and scraped, was further bloodied by a twice-fractured nose and smashed larynx. A doctor testified that the smashed larynx alone would have killed Day had Harrison not cut his throat.
After he was first convicted in 2000, Harrison was sentenced to death in 2001. He won a retrial after the court found two jurors failed to disclose their potential prejudices.
The Ledger-Enquirer was unable to reach Davis about whether the state will push for the death penalty a second time.
Dressed in a loose, tan suit and thick glasses, Harrison nodded silently when Johnson repeated his verdict. The jury will reconvene Wednesday at 9 a.m. to hear arguments on sentencing. Day's mother, who choked sobs back repeatedly during Monday's closing arguments, cried with relief on hearing the jury's verdict.