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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (15) - Disagreement over a video game
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 27, 1999
Date of birth: 1984
Victim profile: Andre Hardin, 13 (his brother)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Status: Sentenced to 22 years in prison on February 7, 2001. Released on probation on January 2, 2006

Ky. v. Hardin: Brotherly Video Game Turns Deadly

Court TV

March 16, 2001

Did a disagreement over a video game lead one teenager to purposely murder another? Or was the gunshot that killed 13-year-old Andre Hardin an accident, the result of a gun which discharged unexpectedly? That question is at the heart of this Louisville, KY case, in which the gun's owner, 15-year-old Aaron Hardin the victim's older brother is being tried as an adult.

Video Games and Violence

On the evening of December 27, 1999, teenage brothers Aaron and Andre Hardin were playing a video game in their Louisville home along with their friend, Michael Graham. The game, which Andre had received as a Christmas gift only two days before, was set up for two players. The three boys took turns playing the game in the small bedroom that Andre and Aaron shared.

After Aaron and Michael had played several matches against each other, Michael played against Andre. Aaron, who apparently wanted another turn, tried to wrestle the video game's controller away from his younger brother, wrapping the controller's cord around his body in order to prevent Aaron from taking the game away from him.

Eventually, the brothers began to wrestle although according to both Aaron Hardin and Michael Graham, the fight was mostly just "goofing around" between the boys, with tickling and laughing. Still, Andre retained control of his video game, and began to play a match with Michael Graham.

Suddenly, while Andre and Michael were concentrating on their game, a single shot rang out. The bullet entered Andre Hardin's jaw and ripped through his head, eventually lodging in his brain. After a futile attempt to stop his brother from bleeding, Aaron ran next door to summon his mother and the youth made a frantic 911 call for help.

In that call, Aaron Hardin reported that the shooting was a "drive-by," claiming that the bullet which struck Andre had entered the Hardin house from the outside. In fact, emergency medical technicians who arrived at the scene were denied access to the victim until police made sure that there was no shooter present at the scene.

Even as paramedics struggled to save Andre and as police combed the area for clues Aaron stuck to his story that the shooting had been a drive-by. Eventually, he was placed in the back of a police car so that he could be questioned as a witness.

After Andre Hardin was taken to the hospital and after authorities failed to find any signs that a bullet had penetrated the Hardin house police began to question Aaron's story. He was taken to police headquarters, where he eventually confessed what had really happened: the bullet that ripped through his brother had come from Aaron's own gun. According to Aaron, the weapon had been on a chair in the bedroom, and that when he picked it up, it went off.

Andre Hardin died before ever regaining consciousness. According to the medical examiner who performed his autopsy, the youth most likely never felt a thing. Following his death, Aaron Hardin who had originally been held on suspicion of assault was charged with the murder of his brother.

Immediately following the shooting, Aaron had disposed of his gun by throwing it in a neighbor's backyard. It was snowing the night Andre Hardin was shot, and the gun was soon covered by fresh snow. A few days after his arrest, Hardin in exchange for being released from custody and placed under house arrest led police to the spot, and the weapon was recovered.

A few weeks later, Aaron Hardin's case was officially transferred out of juvenile court and placed before a Jefferson County grand jury. A 1994 Kentucky law calls for juveniles as young as fourteen to be tried as adults in Circuit Court if there is probable cause to believe that they have used a firearm to commit a felony.

Hardin was tried before Judge James Shake for felony murder and possession of a handgun by a minor, a misdemeanor. If convicted he faced life in prison.

The Prosecution's Case

According to prosecutors, Aaron Hardin is a cold-blooded killer who intentionally or wantonly shot his younger brother simply because he didn't want to relinquish control of the video game he had been playing.

When he first admitted that he was indeed responsible for his brother's death, Aaron told authorities that he found his firearm along some railroad tracks near the Hardin home. He claimed that he had been planning to get rid of the weapon ever since he had obtained it, and insisted that he knew nothing about guns.

Later, however, he conceded that he had obtained the weapon "on the street" from another individual. In addition, police found a Pop Tarts box under the defendant's bed which contained two spent cartridge shells, which they claim indicates Hardin fired the weapon prior to the fatal shooting, a charge Aaron denies.

Lead prosecutor Paul Dzenitis says that Aaron Hardin was so enraged that Andre Hardin would not share his video game that he picked up his weapon, aimed it at his brother and purposely pulled the trigger. Even if he did not mean to intentionally kill Andre, prosecutors argue, the wanton indifference that Aaron Hardin displayed by discharging a firearm so close to his brother ballistics tests indicate that the gun was no more than two feet from Andre's head constitutes murder.

Extensive testing of the firearm in question reveals that dropping the gun, slamming it against a wall or even hitting it with a rubber mallet would not cause the Smith and Wesson revolver to fire, they say. Only a human finger pulling the trigger could have made the gun fire, they say, proving that the shooting of Andre Hardin had to be intentional.

The Defense's Case

Despite Aaron Hardin's original attempt to convince authorities that his brother's shooting was a drive-by, the defense readily concedes that the defendant shot Andre Hardin. But his attorneys insist that these lies were only the stories of a frightened boy -- one who, as they point out, has no police record. In fact, says Hardin, his denials were not intended to protect him not from the police but from his parents; according to the defendant, his biggest fear on the night of the shooting was of what his mother might do to him when she discovered his role in the shooting.

Represented by lawyer Gwendolyn Horton, the defense contends that the shooting was a tragic accident caused not by malice or wantonness, but because Aaron Hardin was actually trying to protect his brother.

According to the defense, Aaron was listening to his CD player as Andre played the video game with Michael Graham. Suddenly, he noticed the gun sitting on a chair by his bed a gun which, according to Hardin, Andre knew nothing about.

The defendant claims that he immediately decided to put the weapon away, before Andre noticed it and perhaps tried to play with it. But as soon as he picked up the gun, claims Aaron Hardin, it discharged, firing the single bullet which caused his brother's death.

Hardin's defense attorneys stress that Aaron and Andre had a loving fraternal relationship. The defense insists that any horseplay prior to the shooting was simply two brothers fooling around, with giggling and tickling rather than violence. The spent cartridges found under Aaron's bed are further evidence of the warm relationship between the boys, prosecutors claim. Rather than being the remains of bullets Aaron had previously fired, the defense says the shells were picked up on the street by the defendant to give to his brother, who apparently collected them.

Despite the prosecution's ballistic tests which indicate that Hardin's weapon could not fire unless the trigger was intentionally pulled, the defense maintains that guns do occasionally discharge accidentally.

The Stakes

Under Kentucky law, Hardin faced being convicted of murder in two ways intentional murder or wanton murder.

For a conviction of intentional murder, jurors must believe that the evidence shows Aaron Hardin intentionally shot his brother. A wanton murder conviction requires a finding that the defendant had an extreme indifference to human life leading to circumstances that caused his brother's death.

Though murder is a capital offense in Kentucky, the law prohibits the death penalty for defendants under age 16. Hardin faces up to life in prison if convicted of murder.

Jurors were also given the opportunity to consider two lesser charges: second-degree manslaughter and reckless homicide.

In addition to his murder charge, Aaron Hardin is charged with one count of possession of a handgun by a minor.

The Verdict

On Dec. 15, 2000, the jury of eight men and four women took less than two hours to find Hardin not guilty of intentional murder, but guilty of wanton murder. The panel also convicted the teen of possession of a handgun by a minor.

Three days later, the same jury had to decide whether to recommend a sentence of life in prison or a term anywhere between 20 and 50 years.

After listening to testimony during the sentencing phase from several witnesses, including Hardin's parents, the jury recommended a 22-year sentence for murder and an additional one year term for the possession conviction.

"I want to say that I'm sorry for what happened, and I do believe that people do deserve a second chance," Hardin said as he addressed the court."I'm sorry about what happened. I know it was a horrible crime . . . my brother was everything to me," Hardin said just before being formally sentenced by Judge Shake on Feb. 7, 2001. "Don't nobody know how I feel, not one person . .. I live with the nightmares, the dreams, going to sleep crying, waking up crying . . . can't nobody feel like that, only me."

Shake gave Hardin what he termed "the best chance for you to avoid spending a very large part of your life in an adult prison," sentencing Hardin to a juvenile facility until his 18th birthday.

Once Hardin turns 18, Shake could not return Hardin to prison by granting probation or a conditional discharge. The judge also has the option of sending Hardin back for six months for further treatment or transferring Hardin to an adult prison to serve the remainder of the 22-year sentence.


Man Who Killed His Brother In 1999 Leaves Prison

Hardin Gets Second Shock Probation

January 3, 2006

A man convicted of killing his brother was released from prison Tuesday morning after being granted shock probation.

Aaron Hardin was probated once before, but it was revoked after he admitted to smoking marijuana.

Hardin was serving a 22-year sentence for shooting and killing his brother, Andre, in a video-game dispute in 1999.

"It's been a six-year ordeal," said Hardin's father, Raphael Allen. "It's been very, very hard."

Allen added that Aaron Hardin feels plenty of remorse for what happened in 1999.

"He's written to us and he's thought about his little brother," Allen said. "It's been hell on earth."


Aaron Hardin Indicted Again

April 19, 2006

A grand jury indicted a Louisville man on burglary and assault charges, something that could send Aaron Hardin back to prison for more than a decade.

A local woman claims Hardin held her down while his girlfriend beat her up in February. Hardin turned himself in to police last month.

In January, Hardin was granted shock probation for a second time after a conviction for killing his brother over a video game. With these new charges, prosecutors are asking the judge who let him out to consider sending him back, WLKY NewsChannel 32 reported.

"We're worried about the future for him," said Hardin's mentor, community activist Christopher 2X. "This indictment is very serious. The charges are very serious, and they have to be taken that way."



The victim, 13-year-old Andre Hardin.



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