Amerson "Not Guilty"

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One of two suspects charged in the armed robbery and kidnapping of a Lauderdale, Miss., couple was found not guilty of the charges Thursday.

Lee Amerson, 23, of Meridian stood trial in Lauderdale County Circuit Court. In spite of the acquittal, Amerson remains in custody because of an alleged probation violation related to a conviction for motor vehicle theft.

Ralph and Elizabeth Morgan were robbed and tied up in their home. Jewelry, cash, and handguns were taken in the holdup.

A co-defendant, Tracey Moore, had pleaded guilty, received a 15-year sentence, and had agreed to testify about Amerson's role in the crime. But on the witness stand Moore said he could not remember the events of Jan. 10, 2002.

"It's just a shame," said Elizabeth Morgan. "I know the state only had my jewelry to go on for evidence, but there were so many other things, that the jury had to know they were guilty."

"We couldn't identify him and Tracey Moore had already said they did it and said Lee Amerson did it," said Ralph Morgan. "(He) agreed to testify against Lee Amerson, then when they put him on the stand he wouldn't say anything."

Amerson's attorney, Pat Jordan, said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the verdict.

District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell said he will pursue a court motion to have Moore's guilty plea withdrawn or in the alternative, to be able to keep the armed robbery sentence to the current 15 years and prosecute him for kidnapping. That charge was dropped in the plea bargain. If successful, Moore could get life in prison.