Three other men remain accused of murder in connection with the death of Stephen Shackleford.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- As Eddie Bryant testified in his own murder trial, his lawyer asked, "Do you want to go home?"
"Yes," the 25-year-old North Sider answered.
Bryant got his wish within hours of the testimony Wednesday when a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court jury acquitted him of the March murder of 29-year-old Stephen Shackleford in the Victory Annex housing complex.
"No evidence" is the reason one juror gave for why the panel of six men and six women chose to set Bryant free.
Bryant had been held at the Mahoning County jail since his arrest nearly four months ago. He told the jury he was at his mother's house at the time of the murder.
Shackleford died March 19 after being shot outside his East Side home on McBride Street in the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority complex.
The innocent verdict came shortly after jurors had asked a judge if being an accomplice to the murder made Bryant guilty of murder.
Judge Maureen A. Cronin had earlier denied an assistant prosecutor's request to allow jurors to consider if Bryant was guilty as an accomplice. Jurors were instructed only to consider the charge of murder.
Still facing murder charges in the case are Armin Moore, 24, of Kendis Circle, and Lorice Moore, 24, of McGuffey Road. An outstanding murder warrant remains for Calvin Moore, 30, no address available. Testimony showed that Calvin and Lorice are brothers. A prosecutor said Armin is their cousin. Bryant testified that he is close friends with Lorice and Calvin but does not know Armin well.
Version of events
In closing arguments, Assistant Prosecutor Michael J. Maillis said that Shackleford had a scuffle with Armin and Lorice Moore earlier on the day he was killed. Testimony showed that the argument was over a debt owed to Shackleford.
Maillis argued that the men called Bryant in to help with the murder later that day. He said all four accused men were in the Victory Annex parking lot and that an armed and shooting Lorice Moore chased Shackleford from his apartment while Eddie Bryant waited on the side of the building and fired as Shackleford ran by.
Two witnesses identified Bryant as being in the area that day, Maillis said, with one saying she saw him carrying a gun and the other seeing him shoot.
Criticizes police work
Defense attorney Mark Lavelle had argued that a witness who identified Bryant from 100 yards away may have been mistaken and that she embellished her testimony, saying she heard 20 gunshots when only three were fired. He suggested that she believed it was Bryant because she had often seen him with the Moore brothers.
Lavelle also argued that police, who had a warrant for Bryant within hours of the murder, did a shoddy job. He said investigators did not search Bryant's home or perform a gunshot residue test on his hand. Clothes seen by witnesses were never found; neither was a gun.
"Don't punish Eddie Bryant because of a failure of the Youngstown Police Department. We all expect better. We all deserve better," Lavelle said. "Stephen Shackleford's family deserves justice, but not at this price."