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Arkansas man acquitted in 2015 robbery, killing

TEXARKANA -- A Texarkana man was acquitted Wednesday of murder and other charges in a robbery and killing in 2015.

A Miller County jury found Justin Damone Johnson, 29, innocent of capital murder and two counts of aggravated assault in the Nov. 19, 2015, death of 22-year-old Trevon Staten at Beacon Point Apartments in Texarkana.

According to a probable-cause affidavit, Staten opened the door of Apartment 102 for someone he knew shortly before midnight Nov. 19, but the man who knocked on the door didn't enter the unit. Instead, several men rushed into the second-floor apartment, opened fire and killed Staten.

Two witnesses, Sharlysa Gulley and Rashod Rushing, testified that Johnson was among the three or four intruders.

Rushing also testified that Staten expected to purchase codeine cough syrup the night of the shooting. Johnson's phone number appeared in Staten's phone under the name "J Drank," and phone records show Johnson called Staten just minutes before the shooting.

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Witnesses testified Staten had well over $1,000 in cash, a sizable quantity of marijuana and a substantial number of Xanax and "mollies" -- a street name for an amphetamine -- before the shooting, which were missing afterward. Crime-scene photos showed bags of marijuana, digital scales and other drug paraphernalia scattered on the stairs leading to Staten's apartment.

Defense attorney Jeff Harrelson argued there wasn't enough evidence to find Johnson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, citing the unreliability of witness identifications and a desire for justice likely felt by those who survived the shooting.

It is the second time Johnson has been acquitted of murder. In 2012, a jury in Albuquerque, N.M., acquitted Johnson of two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and abuse of a child causing great harm or death in a drug-related case, according to New Mexico court records.

State Desk on 05/19/2017

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