Man convicted for U football player’s murder

Jurors took less than three hours to reach a guilty verdict in the September 2002 murder of 19-year-old Brandon Hall.

Branden Peterson

Almost one year after the murder of University football player Brandon Hall, a West St. Paul man was convicted Wednesday for the 19-year-old’s death.

The trial of Jermaine O. Stansberry, 28, lasted five days, but jurors needed less than three hours to reach guilty verdicts on three felony counts.

Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar said she could not remember a jury returning with a murder conviction so quickly.

“We felt we had a strong case Ö and that was certainly borne out in the short amount of time it took the jury to deliberate,” she said.

Stansberry was convicted of first-degree aggravated robbery of one player, Damian Haye, the second-degree murder of Hall and also having a gun even though he is prohibited from it.

Stansberry’s defense attorney, David McCormick, blamed the shooting on Raymond Hardimon, 24. Hardimon pleaded guilty in April to aggravated assault charges stemming from the evening.

“Mr. Stansberry has been consistent throughout … . Our contention was Hardimon did it,” he said. Stansberry will appeal the decision, McCormick said.

“We are pleased that justice has been served in this process,” University football coach Glen Mason said in a written statement. “Brandon and his family will always be in the hearts and minds of all our coaches and players.”

Klobuchar said team officials helped make players available to testify during the trial. The prosecution called several University football players, police and other witnesses during the week-long trial.

Trial recap of events

The violent crimes occurred in the early morning of Sept. 1, when several University football players had multiple altercations with Stansberry, Hardimon and at least one other individual.

Trouble began at approximately 1:30 a.m. when former University football player Damian Haye walked in between an argument involving two people near Fourth Street and First Avenue. Haye said he told Hardimon to calm down, but then was immediately jumped, beaten and robbed by several men.

After the incident, several teammates in the area aided their bloodied teammate by confronting the men responsible.

Punches and words were soon exchanged, and police used Mace to break up the second incident.

At approximately 2:30 a.m., Stansberry, Hardimon and others confronted the University players one last time.

The players were walking along Third Street and Hennepin Avenue when former player Jason Green testified he saw Hardimon and Stansberry reaching under the seats of a white minivan parked in an alley. Green testified that he expected they were reaching for weapons.

Though he never saw the men holding guns, Green warned his friends to exit and started sprinting from the scene.

“He’s got the heat Ö I’m just yelling he’s got heat,” Green testified, choking up as he described the scene.

Then, a bullet struck Brandon Hall, and he staggered shortly before collapsing.

Several Minneapolis police were at the scene within seconds, making arrests, including Hardimon in the minivan. Outside the passenger door, a 9 mm pistol was found, but mixed testimony failed to establish how it got there.

Immediately after the shooting, several witnesses said Stansberry, who they remembered wearing a white #23 Washington Wizards jersey, was the shooter.

“He stuck out like a sore thumb and there’s no doubt about it,” said Hennepin County prosecutor Bob Streitz during closing arguments.

Defense attorney David McCormick argued witnesses mistook Stansberry as Hardimon, who was also wearing white clothes, during the chaos.

Hennepin County medical examiner Dr. Daniel Davis said Hall’s death was “undisputedly” a homicide.

According to the autopsy, the bullet punctured Hall’s left shoulder, lungs and heart, leaving him with no chance to survive.

In police custody, Haye’s gold necklace and bracelet were found in Stansberry’s pocket. Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension expert Amy Tierney said DNA tests found Haye’s blood on Stansberry’s shoes.

Stansberry testifies

On Tuesday, the defendant testified that he saw Hardimon shoot Hall, and denied robbing Haye.

“I kicked him once Ö I won’t lie,” he said, growing wide-eyed while claiming his innocence.

Before the shooting, Stansberry said he was returning to his car when Hardimon ran down the street toward the University players. Stansberry said he followed to protect his friend.

Stansberry said he saw Hardimon fire the gun with two hands, then run, putting the pistol in his pocket.

Stansberry said he approached police as they arrived, hoping for protection from angry football players. Instead, police handcuffed and arrested him.

“I ain’t do nothing Ö I get down to the ground and I’m like ‘For what?’ ” he said.

During cross-examination, Streitz asked Stansberry why he never told police who shot Hall.

“Whatever gets said, I did not shoot that man. I did not shoot Brandon Hall,” Stansberry said, admitting he was scared for his life.

Stansberry repeatedly ranted of disrespect and of police collusion, causing Hennepin County District Judge Pamela Alexander to ask him to settle his emotions.

“We lost him too soon.”

Hall’s mother, Dorothy, and his aunts traveled from Detroit, Mich., for the trial. After listening to several days of testimony, the family circled for a silent prayer while waiting for the verdict.

“I have never been anxious,” Hall said. “I am a Christian and I believe in God. I’m not angry and I don’t hate.”

It was an emotional week for the mother, who occasionally used tissues to collect her tears during testimony.

Stansberry sat in his chair emotionless as the verdicts were read. He then looked over his shoulder to his saddened family in the tense courtroom and said, “I’ll be back,” before being told to face forward by court deputies.

Outside the courtroom, both families reacted to the verdicts. “Brandon was one of our treasures. We lost him too soon,” said Cynthia Hall, an aunt. “Getting a verdict in our favor does help, of course, but we’re well aware it doesn’t bring Brandon back.”

Frustrated and crying, Stansberry’s family members shook their heads in disgust and sadness as they left the courthouse.

“He didn’t touch that gun; he didn’t hurt that boy,” said Catherine McCabe, a cousin of Stansberry. “They can get him for robbery, but they can’t get him for murder.”

Klobuchar said the state will ask for consecutive maximum sentences. If granted in the Sept. 4 hearing, Stansberry could serve 31 years in prison.

– Jens Manuel Krogstad contributed to this report.

Branden Peterson welcomes comments at [email protected]