Jurors delivered a verdict of not guilty on all counts after 75 minutes of deliberation this morning in the James Love murder trial.

Jurors delivered a verdict of not guilty on all counts after 75 minutes of deliberation this morning in the James Love murder trial.

Closing statements kicked off the fourth day of the James Love trial with jury instructions. Love, 59, Knox Road 2000 East in Galva, is charged with first-degree murder and two shooting charges for the June 19, 2018, shooting death of Xavier Hartman, 19, near Love’s rural Galva home.

The overnight winter weather didn’t impact proceedings Friday even though many area schools were closed yet again.

Love is represented by attorney Todd Ringel and Doug Johnson while Knox County Assistant State’s Attorneys Andrew Stuckart and Brian Kerr are prosecuting the case before Circuit Associate Judge Anthony Vaupel.

Stuckart gave the closing statements for prosecutors while Ringel gave them for the defense and Kerr gave a rebuttal to Ringel.

Stuckart mostly focused on his argument that Love was not justified in his actions.

“It’s really coming down to was the defendant justified in using that force against Xavier Hartman?” he asked.

“If you’re aiming a firearm at someone and pulling the trigger ... you know that shooting someone with a firearm by its very nature is going to kill them or cause great bodily harm.”

Stuckart circled back to the arguments on the trajectory of the bullet that struck Hartman and was lodged in the front part of his left lower leg, which was recovered in the autopsy. That trajectory was back-to-front, but could have been an entry made at the side of Hartman’s leg, what defense counsel has argued was a ricochet.

“It’s not possible to fire at someone as they’re going towards you and it not be a front-to-back” wound, in that the bullet entered the front and exited the back, Stuckart said.

That bullet, recovered from Hartman’s leg, was in “good condition” and Stuckart argued the “only way that could possibly happen is if Xavier, when he was struck in the leg, had his back to him ... what danger are you posing to someone if you’re not looking at them?”

Stuckart then argued, that since Hartman had been shot, he kicked in to a fight or flight response.

“What’s the point in running? He’s already been shot,” he said.

On the fatal shot to Hartman’s leg, Stuckart said, “At that point, when the defendant fired that round into the leg of Xavier, that was not self-defense. He became the aggressor at that point.”

He concluded his opening remarks by asking the jury to use common sense when deliberating.

“The defendant’s side of the story just doesn’t make sense when you bring in the science of what happened to Xavier,” Stuckart said.

At that point, Ringel took over and hammered on the, what he has called, ricochet bullet that first struck Hartman. That round was fired in a ditch.

“You would think that (bullet would) go through and through, unless it’s a ricochet,” Ringel said.

The defense attorney drove point the home that he believes Love acted in self-defense. According to Love’s testimony, Hartman struck him first, he called his wife to call police, chambered a round in his firearm and then Hartman charged him.

“Xavier, unfortunately, was the one that decided this was going to be violent,” Ringel said.

He then touched on Hartman’s blood alcohol concentration level that night — .234, or nearly three times the legal limit of .08 — and a Henry County conviction of misdemeanor attempted mob action as well as an order of protection Melissa Kelly, Hartman’s mom, sought against her son last January.

That subsequently expired in February 2018 and Kelly said she was trying to mother her son in testimony Thursday afternoon.

“This case is one issue ... it is self-defense. Were his actions reasonable and justified? They were,” Ringel said.

“This is a sad case ... there are no winners here.”

Kerr, who provided the rebuttal to Ringel, asked, “If you’re so worried you have to take a 9mm to protect yourself, why go out there?”

He also called back to Love’s own testimony when the Galva man said he saw the truck on its side from 600 feet away.

“Wouldn’t the reasonable person go ahead and call 911” at that point?, Kerr asked.

“As a private citizen, who here would bring a gun to a traffic accident? It doesn’t make sense.”

With that, Judge Vaupel read the jury instructions, which included that if the jury believes there is a mitigating factor Love could be found guilty of second-degree murder.

That is if the jury believes the “defendant believes circumstances exist that would justify use of force, but that belief is unreasonable,” Vaupel read to the jury.

Deliberations began at 10:31 a.m. today. The jury was out about 75 minutes.