Senior was facing life without the possibility of parole in the August 2017 execution-style killing of Harris in North Highland.
The jury did not begin deliberating until 1 p.m. and Judge Maureen Gottfried got a note from the foreman at 1:38 that a verdict had been reached.
Senior was charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm while committing a felony. He was convicted on all four counts. Gottfried sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole after the verdict.
Senior showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Three of Harris’ relatives were in the courtroom and one wiped away a tear as the verdict was read.
Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Schwartz and defense attorney Anthony Johnson made their closing arguments Monday morning.
Schwartz was pleased with the quick verdict.
“We are pleased that the jury saw the truth of the case,” she said. “The evidence was overwhelming. In this case, Columbus Police Department did a fantastic job, investigating this case start to finish.”
Columbus Police Deputy Chief Lance Deaton was the lead homicide investigator on the case. He, too, was pleased to see a quick verdict.
“You are always a little nervous when they come back that quick because it could either really good or it could be really bad,” he said. “So, you are a little nervous until you actually hear the verdict read. When they come back that quick, it sends a real strong message on the case that was made and the case that was presented in court.”
It was the third murder trial brought to verdict since Mark Jones became DA. It was the first guilty verdict. Schwartz was one of the ADA’s who left before Jones took office in January. He hired her back in March.
“Kim Schwartz is a great ADA, very experienced, glad she came back on the team,” Jones said. “I look forward to working with her further on cases like these. These shootings are a major concern of citizens, voters, grand jurors have expressed their concern to me about these shootings. It’s just good when justice can be delivered.”
The closing arguments were quick and to the point, taking less than two hours total. Each attorney had two hours allotted when the day began.
Earlier in the trial, Johnson told jurors one of the toughest things they were going to have to do was accept the drug culture that existed in North Highland at the time. The victim was a known drug dealer.
“Accepting. I disagree. We do not accept this,” Schwartz said. “Ladies and gentlemen, we do not accept this at all. Is it acceptable – is it acceptable – to any of you for this man to be gunned down in broad daylight, two miles from the seat of government here? … Do you find that acceptable? Is it acceptable for the man to be shot down in front of his children?”
Harris was shot in the back of his head while he was standing next to his 2-year-old son.
Schwartz told the jury that eyewitnesses, the gun found hours after the shooting and Harris’ DNA evidence on Senior’s shoes point directly to Senior.
Johnson pointed to mistaken identity and a compromised crime scene as the primary defense. He also questioned the credibility of Toyee Britton, Senior’s girlfriend and one of the state’s key witnesses.
Up to the last statement of his closing argument, Johnson maintained his client was innocent.
“I am not going to say that this is an easy verdict,” Johnson. “It’s a just verdict – not guilty. You should look at the evidence. You should acknowledge the hurt. You should acknowledge the pain.”