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Swem acquitted of murder, assault & weapon charges

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 10:23 AM EDT|Updated: May. 13, 2022 at 10:24 AM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Christopher Swem has been found not guilty of the most serious charges against him.

A Jefferson County Court jury deliberated for about two hours Thursday and another hour Friday morning before reaching a verdict.

He was acquitted of charges of second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and one count of tampering with physical evidence.

“When they said not guilty, tears just came to my eyes,” Swem told 7 News after the verdict.

“I know his feelings are beyond out of this world, so I can’t do nothing but feel the same for him. Innocent man, who had a close call, he walked away today. I’m very happy for him,” said Tre Thomas, Swem’s friend.

Swem was found guilty of a second count of evidence tampering.

But defense attorney John Hallett, who had a hand on Swem’s back as the verdict was read, says he’ll likely get time served for that.

“Obviously I care about Christopher Swem a great deal, and I cared about how this trial turned out. Like I said, I’m happy for him more than I’m happy for myself,” said Hallett.

Swem was accused of fatally stabbing Shawndell Anderson at a house party on Moulton Street in Watertown on August 19, 2017.

He was convicted of murder and other charges in 2018 and was sent to prison for at least 25 years.

Swem spent 3 years in prison before a state appeals court overturned the conviction, which paved the way for the trial that concluded Friday.

“They’ve been wasting years of my life for no reason, and when they said not guilty, everything just lifted off my shoulders,” he said after the verdict. “You live and learn, you grow. Even that experience taught me a lot of things - who was there for me, who wasn’t there for me. How people will lie and they don’t care. So I just took it as a lesson.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney Patricia Dziuba says she respects the jury’s decision but adds the time-lapse of nearly five years may have played a role in the outcome.

“There was a lot of time between when this event happened and when they’re testifying about it now. So there’s several witnesses who had memory issues or who were very uncooperative, and very understandably so. This is a hard thing to do. It’s hard to testify in this kind of case,” she said.

But Swem says they got it wrong from the start.

“Some people are guilty. I get that, but some aren’t. And in this case, I wasn’t.”

“What’s next for Swem? He says he’s going to keep working and building his life back outside New York state

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