Jury deadlocked in Haddon Twp. trial on fatal shooting

Posted: February 02, 2012

The trial of Army veteran Harold Elliot, who is accused of murdering his sister's boyfriend after a night of heavy drinking, ended Wednesday with the jury deadlocked.

Elliot did not deny shooting Michael Unger, but the question of whether he did so in self-defense split the jurors, with nine of the 12 finding him "not guilty" when polled by Superior Court Judge Gwendolyn Blue.

The Camden County Prosecutor's Office said it would review the case and decide whether to bring it back to court.

"There's the inclination that if we felt it was worth trying once we'd do it again," said spokesman Jason Laughlin.

Three years ago, during the Thanksgiving holidays, police were called to the Haddon Township house Elliot shares with his sister and mother to find Michael Unger dead in Elliot's bathroom, shot through the chest.

Elliot said he shot the Maryland man in self-defense after a night out at the American Legion post in Haddon Township, which ended with Unger knocking him down and demanding Elliot give him his handgun.

During last week's court proceedings, Assistant Prosecutor Peter Gallagher worked to cast doubt on that story - portraying Elliot as highly intoxicated and waiting to shoot Unger as he came out the bathroom defenseless.

The two men had just met - Unger had only recently begun dating Elliot's sister.

According to witnesses, they spent much of the night arguing on subjects ranging from the war in Iraq to guns, both at the American Legion bar and back at the family's home, where they continued to drink late into the night.

The medical examiner found Unger had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 - more than twice the legal limit for driving.

After three days of deliberations, the jury said it could not reach a consensus.

Elliot's attorney, Jeffrey Zucker, said so far the prosecutor's office had offered no plea deal and it was unlikely his client would agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Contact staff writer James Osborne at 856-779-3876 or jaosborne@phillynews.com.

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