XENIA — After a day of jury selection, two and a half days of trial and three hours of deliberation, a Greene County jury found a man guilty of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon Aug. 31.
Jevon C. Russell Jr., 27, was charged with the first-degree felony and firearms specification after he and another male allegedly forced their way into a Fairborn apartment on April 10. Russell was accused of carrying two guns into the residence and stealing two hunting knives and a wallet off the coffee table.
A resident of the home [victim] called 9-1-1 — a recording of which was later played during court — and identified the second male involved in the burglary, who led the police to Russell.
Fairborn police officers uncovered the two guns hidden in a lot close to the residence. In Russell’s home, the officers found the stolen driver’s license on a bedroom dresser. Also on the bedroom dresser were pieces of mail addressed to Russell and keys to the car that was identified as used in the crime.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence in this case is simple and it is straightforward,” assistant prosecutor David Hayes said in opening statements to the jury on Aug. 29. “You have more than enough evidence to convict the defendant.”
Defense attorney Charles Morrison disagreed, alleging that the witnesses were not credible, that their stories had changed over time, and that perhaps a police conspiracy was the reason Russell was sitting in the defendant’s chair.
“I ask that you keep an open mind,” he said to the jury. “I think when you are done there will be plenty of reasonable doubt and you will be required to find him not guilty.”
Morrison also argued that even the DNA evidence was insufficient in putting Russell at the scene of the crime.
“DNA is DNA. There’s no DNA putting him there — that’s all we know,” Morrison said.
Logan Schepeler, a forensic scientist from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), testified to the results he obtained while testing for DNA. Two firearms were swabbed for the test as well as two doorknobs in the apartment during the investigation.
Schepeler’s results showed that there were too many sources of DNA on the firearms to tell if Russell’s was present, that Russell’s DNA was not on the first doorknob, and that there was too little DNA on the second doorknob to tell if Russell’s was there.
But testimony revealed — and Hayes reminded the jury — that according to the storyline, Russell never tried to enter the first doorway but did open the second door during the home invasion.
Throughout the trial, the question continued to live: who was “the black man” who forced his way into the apartment? Was it, or was it not, the defendant Jevon Russell?
One by one, others took the witness stand — eight law enforcement officials who were involved with the case, and three witnesses who first identified the defendant’s face in a line-up months ago and, when prompted, pointed to the defendant again in open court.
One witness testified that he lived in the same apartment complex as the victim. The two accused men — whom he didn’t know — allegedly approached him a few minutes before forcing their way into his neighbor’s apartment April 10. He later identified both of them for the police.
But Morrison discredited his testimony, reminding the jury that it was dark outside and that the witness could not even remember what the men were wearing.
The defense rested without presenting a case early into the day Aug. 31, leading into closing arguments from both sides.
“The state’s burden is to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime,” Hayes said. “We’ve proven them all including this question: who is the black man who entered [victim’s] apartment on April 10, 2017 with guns and took that wallet? … That black man is sitting right there, it is the defendant, Jevon Russell.”
Morrison followed, taking the podium in front of the jury.
“Think about what is most important to you … the most important things in your life. Think about those and then think — what I heard in here this week, could I make a decision on those issues, on any of this? Would I make a decision about the most important things in my life based upon what I saw here?” he asked.
A final disposition and sentencing hearing is set for Thursday, Sept. 21 in Judge Michael Buckwalter’s courtroom.
According to Hayes, the defendant faces 11 years for the felony, three years for the firearms specification and one to 10 additional years for a possible repeat violent offender specification. Russell was convicted of aggravated robbery in 2008, court records indicate.
“Jevon Russell is an individual with a violent criminal history,” Hayes said. “We are obviously very happy about the jury’s verdict.”
Morrison declined to comment.