After spending Tuesday sparring over defense motions, attorneys finally are to make their opening statements Wednesday in the murder and racketeering trial of a Columbus mother, her son and an alleged accomplice
After jury selection Monday dragged on until nearly 8 p.m., Superior Court Judge William Rumer seated a panel of six black, five white and two Hispanic women and one white man Tuesday morning, two of them alternates.
But the composition provoked defense objections that prosecutors deliberately eliminated potential black jurors, a contention Rumer rejected.
Later jurors were dismissed for the day as attorneys continued to haggle over motions.
The jury’s to return to Rumer’s 10th floor Government Center courtroom at 9 a.m. Wednesday as the presentation of evidence begins. The trial may take two weeks.
Defendants Daphene Ann Castille, her son Jamal Hakeem Castille and Dantrell Cornelius Marshall are charged in the Sept. 22, 2008, fatal shooting of David Coleman, 20, whom prosecutors claim the alleged conspirators wanted dead because he was acting as a police informant feeding investigators information about a bank robbery.
They also face charges in the bank robbery, which happened Sept. 10, 2008, at the Columbus Bank & Trust branch at 5445 Forrest Road, where police say the suspects got $200,000.
Authorities allege the defendants needed the money because they’d lost $42,500 worth of cocaine they were smuggling from Texas to Columbus in July 2008 when they were stopped and searched in Chambers County, Texas.
Their collaboration in this series of offenses justified charging them with violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called RICO, prosecutors said. A Muscogee grand jury indicted them Dec. 27, 2012, for violating the RICO Act, along with murder and armed robbery.
A fourth suspect, Terrell Maurice Mars, has made a deal to testify against the others and has not been in court this week.
Among the defense motions Tuesday, attorneys challenged whether police Sgt. Mike Dahnke properly informed Daphene and Jamal Castille of their right to remain silent or to have an attorney present when he questioned them.
During his years-long investigation of Coleman’s homicide, Dahnke questioned Jamal Castille on Aug. 6, 2010, and interviewed Castille’s mother on Sept. 20, 2012, the day he arrested her and Marshall for Coleman’s slaying. Rumer ruled that Dahnke appropriately followed procedure in questioning the suspects.
The judge also ruled in Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker’s favor when Whitaker sought to introduce evidence the Castilles had a pattern of trying to silence witnesses.
Police have alleged that between Sept. 12 and 21, 2008, Daphene Castille offered a man named Darrin Huntley compensation to kill Coleman. Later arrested himself, Huntley wound up being incarcerated at the same time and in the same part of the jail as Jamal Castille, who there assaulted him for telling police about his mother, Whitaker said.
Jamal Castille’s attorney, Suellen Fleming of Carrollton, Ga., argued Huntley’s assault was not similar to Coleman’s homicide, and should not be allowed into evidence. Rumer decided it was admissible as evidence of a pattern.
Fleming then challenged Jamal Castille’s indictment, arguing the allegations on which the RICO charge is based were not described with sufficient specificity, leaving the defense to engage in “speculation” as to which offenses the indictment used as grounds for the RICO count.
Whitaker countered that the underlying charges supporting the RICO accusation are cited elsewhere in the indictment, so including them in the RICO count was unnecessary. Rumer agreed.
Among the last motions Rumer heard was one from attorney Cynthia Lain, who represents Daphene Castille. She wanted to know the name of a police “confidential informant” whose identity was unclear in documentation she had received from prosecutors.
Whitaker said that was easily answered: The informant was David Coleman, the police tipster the defendants are accused of killing.