Mistrial declared in bar shooting case
By Joe Gorman
A mistrial was declared Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court by Judge Lou A. D’Apolito after jurors failed to reach a verdict in the case of a man accused in a shooting death at a South Avenue bar.
Judge D’Apolito excused the jurors about 1:30 p.m. after deliberations over parts of two days in the trial of Johnny Wallace III, 23, who is charged with murder in the Nov. 28 shooting death of Colin Brown, 45, at the Last Call, 2929 South Ave.
Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said Wallace will be retried for Brown’s death. Defense attorney Tony Meranto asked for a reduction of Wallace’s $1 million bond, but Judge D’Apolito said he would decide on bond after a hearing.
April Brown, sister of the victim, said the week was excruciating for her, family and friends of her brother, who attended the trial since it began Monday.
“There is no closure. This will never end,” she said outside of court after the mistrial was declared.
Jurors began deliberations about 10:30 a.m. Thursday after hearing closing arguments. They left at 5 p.m. without reaching a verdict. They returned at 9 a.m. Friday to deliberate, and at 10:45 a.m. informed the judge they could not reach a verdict.
The judge then gave the jurors what’s known as the “Howard Charge,” telling them to continue deliberating until they could reach a verdict “in good conscience” and to also reexamine their positions if they need to.
Just after 1 p.m., however, jurors informed the judge they were “hopelessly deadlocked” and the mistrial was declared.
Prosecutors said throughout the week that jurors should convict Wallace because witness testimony was consistent that only Brown and Wallace were in the restroom of the bar before a gunshot was heard, and that Wallace walked out while Brown was dying.
They also said a hat found in the doorway of the restroom had Wallace’s DNA on it. Prosecutors also said that shortly after the shooting, Wallace cut his dreadlocks off once he found out he was a suspect to change his appearance.
Wallace testified on his own behalf, the only witness the defense called, and denied ever being in the restroom even though he was in the bar for several hours. He said he was playing pool or watching television most of the evening.
Wallace said he cut his hair because he planned on turning himself in and was worried about appearance, even though he never turned himself in and was arrested by U.S. Marshals instead in the bedroom of a home on the South Side.
Police never recovered a murder weapon. Brown was shot with a 9mm handgun and there was a 9mm spent casing outside the bar, but ballistics experts could not say if they were from the same gun.
Cantalamessa had no comment other than to say she was ready to retry Wallace. Meranto said the mistrial proved that prosecutors did not have enough evidence to convict his client.