By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore man was acquitted Thursday of first-degree murder in the 2021 shooting death of anti-violence advocate Dante Barksdale.

Jurors found Garrick Powell not guilty of all four counts, including first- and second-degree murder and two firearm offenses, in the murder of Barksdale, a co-founder of Safe Streets who was gunned down in January 2021.

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The 29-year-old’s defense attorney told WJZ there was a sigh of relief when the verdict was read, because his client maintained his innocence all along.

“The jury made the right decision,” attorney John Cox said. “I honestly believe there was nowhere close to enough evidence to convict my client on this case.”

In a statement, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office said prosecutors were thankful for the jury’s service, despite disagreeing with the verdict.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, a jury has rendered a verdict of not guilty in the Dante Barksdale murder and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family,” the State’s Attorney’s Office statement said in part.

Barksdale, 46, died after he was found shot in the head Jan. 17, 2021, near the Douglass Homes public housing complex. Powell was arrested four months later.

During the four-day trial, prosecutors argued that cellphone data placed Powell in the area at the time of the shooting. They also contended a gun found weeks later in a vehicle, under Powell’s seat, was linked to the murder.

Yet Powell’s attorney pointed out that there were other people in the vehicle, so the gun could have belonged to them, and that investigators never tested potentially exculpatory DNA.

Prosecutors also showed jurors video near the scene the day Barksdale was shot. Cox, meanwhile, noted that no witnesses identified his client as the shooter.

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Despite the defense’s arguments, the judge on Wednesday denied a motion to acquit. Cox was vindicated when a jury acquitted his client Thursday morning.

“He maintained his innocence from the beginning, was waiting for his day in court, and thankfully we finally got it,” Cox told WJZ.

In its statement, the State’s Attorney’s Office said it believed the evidence presented by prosecutors was enough to secure a conviction.

“As we argued in opening statements, the video and cell site evidence placed the defendant in the area of the shooting. We believe that his presence coupled with the murder weapon…being located under the defendant’s car seat was sufficient to find the defendant guilty,” the statement said.

The verdict brought a wave of relief to Powell’s family, who told WJZ earlier this week that the 29-year-old was innocent. His father said he was sad for Barksdale, saying too many Black men are murdered in Baltimore.

“But I’m grateful, humbly speaking,” Powell’s father said. “That’s my son, that’s my baby, and he’s free.”

Barksdale’s family was disappointed by the trial’s outcome, with his wife saying she was “very disappointed.”

“Justice has not been served at all today,” she said.

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Powell will be released from jail because he has no other cases against him.

Ava-joye Burnett