- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota man accused in a fatal robbery told a judge the victim’s death was tragic, but he insisted he wasn’t the killer.

Benjamin Lee Harris is representing himself in his second-degree murder trial in the death of 41-year-old Jason Mikulak. During closing arguments Friday, Harris said prosecutors failed to prove he was the person who fatally shot Mikulak last year in St. Paul, The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported (https://bit.ly/2qgdgWE ).

Prosecutors allege a masked gunman demanded money from Mikulak while he sat in his parked car with his girlfriend around 4 a.m. on Sept. 1. Authorities said the gunman shot Mikulak after a brief struggle outside the car.

“Contrary to popular belief, I do have empathy for the man,” Harris said. “The state has not proven its case.”

Harris, dressed in orange prison clothing, didn’t testify in his own defense or present evidence or witnesses to refute the prosecution’s case.

Investigators say DNA collected from the car’s door handle match Harris‘ fingerprints.

“There is only one reason why his fingerprints … would be on that door handle,” Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Rachel Lynn Kraker said.

She said cellphone data shows that Harris was in the area where Mikulak was killed and that Harris was looking for a gun before the shooting. The cellphone data also showed Harris trying to get rid of a gun immediately after, Kraker said.

Harris waived his right to a jury trial, so the judge presiding over the case will decide his fate.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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