The verdict came a few hours after jurors said they couldn't reach a decision.
By ROGER G. SMITH
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Danny Austin is free instead of returning to prison for possibly the rest of his life.
A jury of eight women and four men in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found Austin innocent of a felonious assault charge Thursday afternoon.
Austin's lawyer, Ronald Knickerbocker, argued that his client struck a woman in the back of the head with a tire iron in self-defense. The evidence showed the victim and her daughter pursued and attacked Austin in the street with bricks and other items after a fight in the yard of a South Side home, he said.
"He swung to protect himself," Knickerbocker said.
Austin, 47, of Youngstown, faced eight years in prison if convicted of the assault. He is on parole, however, for a 1980 homicide conviction for which he served 21 years. The state parole board could have sent Austin back to prison for as long as life if he had been convicted of the assault.
The decision, about 3 p.m., came a few hours after jurors told Judge R. Scott Krichbaum they could not reach a verdict.
About 11:30 a.m. jurors sent a note to Judge Krichbaum saying they were hung up on a decision. The judge, however, sent jurors on a lunch break and directed them to keep talking.
Deliberations started Wednesday morning. Knickerbocker thanked the jury for taking the time to closely consider the case.
Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Krueger said she wasn't satisfied with the verdict and was unsure why the jury came up with the decision.
The victim had a prior minor criminal record that jurors might have held against her, Krueger said.
The woman, who testified she is about 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs about 115 pounds, needed 17 staples in her head to close the wound.
"She didn't even see him coming at her with the crowbar, the tire iron," Krueger said during closing arguments. "If he would have left, none of this would have happened."
The jury was told that Austin was on parole for the murder of a shop owner but not given details of the crime.
Homicide of elderly man
Austin was convicted of shooting and killing Steve Bona Sr., 78, near his Wick Avenue service station. Bona had scared off a robber and chased his assailant, later identified as Austin, down the street when the man pulled a gun and shot the business owner in the chest.
Austin was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. State prison records show Austin was released on parole in July 2001.