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Hung jury in Occupy Our Homes trial

8/8/2014, 5:55 p.m.
The trial of evicted veteran Mark Harris and three Occupy Our Homes Atlanta members has ended with DeKalb State Court ...
Evicted veteran Mark Harris picketed on June 16 with other demonstrators from Occupy Our Homes Atlanta outside the DeKalb County Courthouse before a pretrial hearing in their eviction case. Photo by Ken Watts

— The trial of evicted veteran Mark Harris and three Occupy Our Homes Atlanta members has ended with DeKalb State Court Judge Dax Lopez declaring a mistrial.

After 2 days of evidence, testimony, and powerful closing statements by both the prosecution and defense, the trial wrapped up late Thursday afternoon at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Decatur, with jurors beginning deliberations around 4:30pm. The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision two hours later, at which point Judge Lopez sent everyone home, ordering everyone to return to court on Aug. 8.

By lunchtime on Friday, the jury made it clear that no progress had been made, leaving Judge Lopez with no choice but to declare a mistrial.

Throughout the trial, the state refused evidence presented by the defense including testimony by Lynn Szymoniak, the famed Florida attorney known for exposing Robosigning as an expert witness for the Justice Department. Despite that fact, the prosecution was unable to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, failing to secure a verdict.

“This is a victory. Our clients were not convicted and they will remain free to continue in the fight for economic and social justice. As a legal team we have been inspired by our client’s courage,” said attorney Mawuli Davis of the Davis Bozeman Law firm, one of four lawyers who took up the defendants’ case. He was joined by attorneys Joshua Davis, Dionne McGee, and Shawn McCullers.

Like millions of Americans, Mark Harris, a Desert Storm veteran, lost his home to foreclosure in 2012. Determined to keep his home, Harris joined Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA) and mounted a nearly yearlong campaign to get mortgage holder Fannie Mae to negotiate. Their efforts included a trip to Washington to meet with top Fannie Mae officials directly.

Harris said he believed he was still engaged in good faith negotiations when Dekalb County Marshals showed up at the door to evict him in August 2013.

Harris, along with OOHA members Mariam Asad, Daniel Hanley, and Tim Franzen were arrested for peacefully resisting the eviction and charged with criminal trespassing.

The defendants each faced up to 2 years in jail if they had been convicted.