CROWN POINT | A Lake Criminal Court jury deliberated about two hours Friday before finding a Gary woman not guilty of murdering her longtime boyfriend.
Prosecutors and the defense presented 90 minutes of arguments before handing murder charges against 56-year-old Darlene Stewart to jurors Friday afternoon.
Stewart was accused of fatally shooting her boyfriend in the early morning hours of Sept. 30, 2010.
"At the end of the day, this was a couple who had been together for 20 years without any complaints," defense attorney Scott King said following the verdict.
"I have never had the experience where I had a client who could not tell me what happened," he said.
"I really do think the police on the scene jumped to conclusions," King said. "It was not a good investigation, which is very unusual."
Testimony during the five-day trial showed Stewart placed a frantic 911 call to police about 12:27 a.m. claiming Jimmie Harris was hitting her and pleading for help.
When police arrived minutes later, Stewart was found unresponsive on the floor and Harris dead in the computer room of a home in the 4200 block of Adams Street in Gary.
During closing statements, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Reginald Marcus said Stewart concocted the story she told a 911 dispatcher after shooting Harris, who had been sitting at a computer desk playing video poker.
Police detected no visible signs of injury to Stewart. Testing at the hospital where Stewart was taken after being found unresponsive also showed no injuries, he said.
Testimony had shown the gun used in the shooting belonged to Harris and Stewart. Ballistics confirmed the bullet removed from Harris' body came from the gun, which was found on a kitchen counter, Marcus said.
The blood on Stewart's blouse was transferred to the hallway and the kitchen when Stewart, who tested at three times the legal level of intoxication, stumbled through the house, he said.
Marcus dismissed defense claims of a possible intruder but conceded the crime scene investigation could have been better.
"This is not (an episode of) 'CSI,'" he told jurors.
However, King told jurors the poor crime scene investigation doomed the case against Stewart almost immediately.
King said investigators were pulled into the case in the early morning hours and failed to test or photograph possible evidence.
"They wanted to get out of that house as fast as possible," he said.
King said because of the trauma, compounded by intoxication, Stewart had no memory of what happened.
While DNA tests linked the handgun to Harris, it was not conclusive regarding Stewart. The blood on Stewart's blouse may have gotten there when she was administering to Harris, he told jurors.
If there was a reasonable chance of an intruder involved, jurors had to find Stewart not guilty, King said.