Murder defendant claims self-defense

September 6, 2013 11:23:42 AM

Sarah Fowler - [email protected]


Ranzino Ahmad Harris took the stand Thursday to testify in his defense. 


He is charged with murder in the 2010 shooting death of Justin Murray. He is also charged with aggravated assault for shooting Michael Brewer in the hand during the same incident. 


From the witness stand, Harris said he shot into the Schoolhouse Avenue home in self-defense, saying, "I thought they were coming at me to start back at me fighting." 


Harris, Murray and Brewer had been in an altercation minutes before the shooting took place. According to Harris' testimony and prior court testimony, Murray and Brewer spent the night with sisters Terecia Lee and Ashley Hill. Hill and Harris had been engaged in an "on-again, off-again" romantic relationship for several years but had broken up several weeks before the shooting. 


Harris testified that he went to the residence looking for Hill when she did not answer his phone calls. He knocked on the door and bedroom window before entering the home. When Hill finally came to the bedroom door, Harris asked her, "What's going on? Who is in your room?" The two then ended up in the bathroom where Harris testified that he put his hands around Hill's neck because Hill was hitting him.  


"I was trying to stop her from hitting me," he said. 


Murray entered the bathroom and pulled Harris off of Hill and the two men began scuffling on a bed in a nearby bedroom. Brewer came to the defense of Murray and also hit Harris. Both Brewer and Harris testified the fight lasted approximately one minute. Harris then left the inside of the home but testified he immediately realized he lost his cell phone during the struggle. 


Harris walked back up to the porch and pulled out a 9mm handgun that had been in the waistband of his jeans to protect himself, he said. 


When Lee answered the door, Harris said he saw Murray and Brewer "coming at him." 


"I pulled the weapon and I fired two shots," he said.  


Harris testified that he did not point specifically at Brewer or Murray, saying, "I'm not really skilled at using a firearm." 


Harris then claimed Murray dropped to the floor and Brewer and Lee ran to the back of the house. Harris then entered the home and walked back to the bedroom to retrieve his lost cell phone. 


Neither Lee nor Brewer testified to seeing Harris inside the home after the shooting. Harris said he then left the scene and went to his mother's work before turning himself in to the police. 


During cross examination, assistant district attorney Rhonda Hayes Ellis asked Harris why he did not call 911. 


"I didn't want him to die or anything like that but I, I've never been in a situation like that before so I wasn't thinking of calling 911," Harris said. "I would have just left if I had it all to do over again. I feel bad about it, I didn't want any of the events to go the way that they did." 


Closing arguments are expected to begin this morning.

Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.