JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - A Jackson convenience store worker has been found not guilty in the 2008 shooting death of a shoplifter. A Hinds county jury found Sarbrinder Pannu not guilty in the murder of 36 year old James Hawthorne.
Pannu shot Hawthorne after he stole a case of beer from the J and S Food Mart on Medgar Evers Boulevard. Prosecuting attorneys argued that Hawthorne was unarmed when he was gunned down.
In closing arguments defense attorney Tom Fortner said Pannu feared for his life when he saw Hawthorne reaching for what he thought was a gun.
Members of the Hawthorne family left the courtroom in disgust. James Hawthorne's mother tells WLBT, the jury has allowed store owners to take the law into their own hands.
Gwendolyn Hawthorne said, "Everyone can go get a gun, it will be like the Wild West!"
Defense attorney Tom Fortner told reporters leaving the courtroom, "I think this verdict sends the message that people are tired of the crime, they are saying stop the robbing, stop the stealing."
Pannu left the courthouse, avoiding reporters. He has been out on bond since the shooting, and plans to return to work.
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