MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A judge upheld a first-degree murder charge for Memphis store clerk accused of killing a teen over a stolen beer in a court appearance Tuesday.
Anwar Ghazali is charged with first-degree murder after investigators said he shot and killed 17-year-old Dorian Harris for shoplifting a $1.09 beer but didn't report the theft or shooting to police.
Harris' body was found two days later.
Surveillance video shows Ghazali, armed with a gun, chasing after Harris.
Ghazali's attorney Blake Ballin argued that his client may have committed a crime, but it does not warrant a first-degree murder charge.
Ballin said the surveillance video does not show the gun being fired. He also said the witness who recalled hearing Ghazali say, "I think I shot him," does not remember the events clearly.
Ballin also noted that Ghazali cooperated with investigators, giving them his passcodes to the store and the gun he used.
Ballin said the murder was not premeditated and believes Ghazali should be charged with reckless homicide or second-degree murder.
However, the judge decided to uphold Ghazali's first-degree murder charge.
Prosecutors said there was no need for Ghazali to defend himself with deadly force, as Harris never threatened or argued, but just ran from the store.
They also argued that Ghazali left the store, looked for Harris, and shot him multiple times--those three actions put together, they argue, show the killing was premeditated.
For now, the judge agrees with prosecutors, saying the crime was emotionally-driven, but that does not take it away from the level of first-degree murder.
Ghazali was given a $1 million bond.
Harris's family was overcome by grief as attorneys discussed the details from the night the 17-year-old died, but they left the hearing bursting with gratitude.
"I'm hurt," Harris' grandmother Effie Fitch said. "I'm really hurting, but I'm glad that he did get the million-dollar bond, but my heart is still hurting for the loss of my grandson."
While video surveillance doesn't show the shots fired, investigators said Ghazali chased down the teen who was about a block away from the North Memphis store Top Stop Shop.
"Certainly you can chase someone with the intent to kill them, you can chase someone with the intent to scare them so," Ghazali's defense attorney Blake Ballin said.
Ballin didn't deny a crime was committed but argued it didn't amount to a first-degree murder charge.
"To think that 12 jurors will beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed first-degree murder, I just don't think that's possible," Ballin said.
"I just want justice for my grandchildren," grandmother Sylvia Harris said. "My kids are hurting."
Ballin said despite the bond set, his client will likely remain in jail until the trial.