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Jury finds inmate guilty of assault



Published: Sat, February 9, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Prison inmate convicted of felonious assault

A jury late Friday found an inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary on the city’s East Side guilty of two counts of felonious assault and two counts of possessing a deadly weapon in prison.

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A jury late Friday found an inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary on the city’s East Side guilty of two counts of felonious assault and two counts of possessing a deadly weapon in prison.

But the jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court found Cornelius Harris, 30, of Hamilton, Ohio, innocent of two counts of attempted aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder and three counts of felonious assault.

In all, Harris was charged with assaults on six corrections officers — three of them on Nov. 27, 2009. He was found innocent of the Nov. 27, 2009, felonious-assault charges.

One male juror, 23, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Scott, said the jurors felt Harris deserved to be punished for stabbing two corrections officers but felt harassment by corrections officers instigated the assaults on the four other officers.

Jurors viewed five videos during the trial, two from mounted cameras and three from handheld recorders, and the recordings showed that the officers “pushed him, pushed him, pushed him,” Scott said, by spitting in his food, putting knees in his back and destroying his property.

The felonious-assault convictions were for stabbing officers James Burns in 2008 and Waylon Wine in 2009 using homemade weapons. The weapons charges related to those stabbings as well, Scott said.

“We’re not saying that it’s OK to stab a corrections officer, but we’re saying you can’t have jailers harassing inmates,” Scott said.

The four convictions the jury handed down at 6:30 p.m. Friday could add 38 years to Harris’ current sentence of 60 years for the offenses that sent him to prison in the first place, said Rob Andrews, assistant Mahoning County prosecutor.

After the verdict was rendered in Judge Maureen A. Sweeney’s courtroom and Andrews had talked to the jurors, Andrews said it appeared that the jury believed Harris “was trying to harm but not kill” the two corrections officers.

When asked if he thought the verdict sends a bad message regarding violence against corrections officers, Andrews said he had no comment.

Sentencing is scheduled for Monday.

Scott said the stabbing involving Burns occurred after Burns approached Harris’ cell and the door opened without explanation.

“We found it odd that Burns said if this cell opens up, be ready for a fight,” Scott said, surmising that “it was intended for the cell to open up” but that Burns didn’t realize Harris had a knife.

Burns was stabbed eight times with a blade that could penetrate about a quarter of an inch, Scott said.


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