A jury has acquitted a man in the drive-by shooting of a 7-year-old girl killed while attending another child’s birthday party in South Bend last year.
After deliberating Thursday for seven hours, the St. Joseph County jury found Jaheim Campbell, 19, not guilty of murder and attempted murder in Chrisyah Stephens’ August 2020 death.
Campbell’s mother broke down in tears after the verdict was read, while Stephens’ relatives quickly left the courtroom, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Prosecutors said Campbell opened fire on the birthday gathering from a passing car and hit the girl while aiming for another man. They told jurors Campbell carried out the shooting in part because that man had spoken disrespectfully about one of Campbell’s deceased relatives.
Their evidence included postings on a Facebook account in which someone using Campbell’s nickname claimed responsibility for the shooting, as well as a police interview in which Campbell made incriminating statements.
But Campbell said someone had created a fake Facebook account in his name, pointing to the fact that the account misspelled his nickname, included none of his friends, was set up only 10 days before the shooting and was not linked to his phone’s internet address.
He also said he made incriminating statements because of police coercion, and pointed to evidence that another man was seen with a gun similar to the murder weapon the day before the shooting and was later found with the pistol during an unrelated arrest.
“You can’t correct the wrong that was done to that little girl by convicting an innocent man,” Campbell’s attorney, Jeff Kimmell, told the jury.