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Jury acquits man charged with carrying a weapon

Published:   |   Updated: September 6, 2013 at 07:28 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - After two hours of deliberation on Friday, six jurors had a question for Judge Daniel Merritt Jr.

"We the jury do not agree on a verdict," Merritt read from a note, sent to him by the jury's foreperson.

Merritt instructed the jurors to go back and try again, instructing them to go one-by-one and talk openly about their own position on the verdict.

Half an hour later, the jury was ready, and found Richard Frazier not guilty of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Frazier, 24, let out a deep breath as the verdict was read, and later wiped away tears and tried to hold back a smile.

The trial wasn't about whether Frazier was a convicted felon or not. Instead, the jury had to decide if Frazier walked into a pawn shop last November carrying a shotgun to pawn for a friend who had forgotten her identification.

In a deposition given earlier this year, Zipporah Fogle said she was trying to pawn a 410 Mossberg shotgun on Nov. 14, 2012, to get cash to pay a bill. Fogle, who lived on the eastern side of the county, said when she got to Jewels N Time on Broad Street, she realized she forgot her driver's license at home.

Fogle then saw her old friend, Frazier, come out of a laundromat next door to the shop. She asked if he could do her a favor and sign for the gun.

Fogle said in her deposition Frazier never touched the gun, just signed for her. Fogle said she knew Frazier had gotten into trouble in the past, but had no idea he had been found guilty of robbery with a weapon, false imprisonment, possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia, resisting an officer without violence and invalid IDs years earlier.

During the trial, which lasted three days, multiple witnesses testified that Frazier did not carry the gun into the shop.

A dissenting voice was John Dewayne, a retired pastor who volunteers at his son's shop and assisted with the transaction.

Dewayne said a "young lady" and Mr. Frazier came into the shop and said they had a gun to sell. Dewayne followed them out to the car.

"Frazier handed the shotgun to me, I cleared it, handed it back to Frazier who brought it back into the shop and set it down on the counter," Dewayne said.

Frazier's defense attorney, Mark Rodriguez, focused on the shortcomings of law enforcement, saying the matter could have been resolved much sooner.

The pawn shop's video system only keeps 30 days of surveillance, and Rodriguez said the day Deputy Ashley Kawa contacted the shop about the gun, the video was still available.

"She just didn't retrieve it, or think about it until later," Rodriguez said.

On Tuesday evening, after the trial started, law enforcement and state's attorneys discovered the shotgun in question was still at the pawn shop, and fired the gun to make sure it was in working order. They did not test the gun for fingerprints.

"Every deputy in this county has a print kit in the trunk of their car,": Rodriguez said. "Why the simple test for prints was not done is beyond me."

Frazier took the stand in his own defense, telling the jurors he never touched the shotgun, though he did sign a pawn slip saying the gun was his property.

"There's no way I ever touched the gun, I did prison time ... had I known I never would have signed for it," Frazier said.

Frazier was facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

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