A Baltimore County jury found a Randallstown man not guilty of first-degree murder Friday.
Sterling Lewis, 22, of the 3900 block of Nemo Road was also charged with first-degree assault, use of a handgun in commission of a violent crime and attempted robbery with a dangerous or deadly weapon.
Nine of Lewis' family members present in the courtroom cried out loud as the verdict was read.
The jury in Baltimore County Circuit Court took a day and a half to reach the verdict.
According to testimony, Lewis and another man—identified as Reginald Frederick, who was convicted in July—attempted to rob Lewis' friend, Everald Thomas.
Thomas testified that late on March 27, 2011, he pulled over his car in the 4000 block of Winlee Road in Randallstown for what he believed was a marijuana sale. Thomas was accompianied by friend Willie Jackson, 19, of Milford Mill. Two masked men—one of whom Thomas immediately recognized as Lewis—got in his car to discuss the deal.
Thomas got out of the car and was allegedly held up by Lewis. Jackson got out of the car, and was followed by Frederick. The two got into a fight, Thomas testified, and then Thomas joined the fight to defend Jackson. Lewis allegedly fired several shots from his handgun, hitting Jackson.
A handgun found in a bookbag in the Baltimore City residence where Lewis was arrested matched spent cartridges left at the scene.
However, in the trial this week, defense attorney Warren Brown attempted to cast doubt largely upon Thomas, the state's key witness. Thomas had misled police in his early statements following the shooting and withheld his knowledge that led to Lewis and Frederick.
Prosecutors countered that evidence backed the story that Thomas later told investigators, and to the jury on the stand. However, the evidence was apparently not sufficient to convict Lewis. Brown said he was "not surprised" by the jury's decision.
"It was just this one guy who admittedly lied often to the detectives," Brown said after the verdict. "I certainly think that there was reasonable doubt there."
Prosecutor Joe Dominick was not available for comment immediately after the verdict.