UPDATE: Prosecutors today granted immunity to a witness charged with making false statements Thursday after he testified tips he gave police in 2011 about a murder and racketeering case were all lies.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker said he will drop the charge against Darrin Huntley and grant Huntley immunity for anything else he says on the stand.
Defense attorneys this morning moved for a mistrial when Huntley took the stand today and invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination when they tried to cross-examine him.
Carrollton attorney Suellen Fleming, who represents Jamal Castille, said her inability to cross-examine Huntley violated her client's Constitutional right to due process of law, as his defense would suffer without Huntley's additional testimony. Attorney Cynthia Lain, who represents Daphene Castille, joined in Fleming's motion for a mistrial, as did Tim Flournoy, who represents Dantrell Marshall.
Flournoy said Huntley is "in grave danger" of incurring more charges such as perjury and needs his own attorney to protect his rights. Robin King, a public defender who previously represented Huntley, was summoned to advise him.
Judge William Rumer held the mistrial motions in reserve after Whitaker promised Huntley immunity. Huntley met with King while a forensic pathologist testified about the autopsy conducted on 20-year-old David Coleman Jr., a police informant gunned down Sept. 22, 2008, in an apartment at 730 Lawyers Lane.
The pathologist testified five or six bullets hit Coleman, the number uncertain because one bullet may have caused two wounds, traveling through an arm before hitting Coleman's torso. The "most grievous wound" entered Coleman's left chest above the heart and traveled diagonally through his torso, striking his sternum, right carotid artery, right lung and a rib before lodging in the right side of his back, the pathologist said.
Three bullets each entered and exited Coleman's left forearm, left knee and right thigh, and the one that went through his arm may have lodged in the right side of his abdominal wall or grazed his torso just above his belly, or those wounds may be from separate bullets, the pathologist said.
Original story: A man who once fed Columbus police tips on a 2008 homicide and an armed robbery preceding it testified Thursday that what he told investigators was a lie.
The witness was Darrin Huntley, who prosecutors said feared reprisals if he testified against Daphene Castille and her codefendants in this week’s armed robbery, murder and racketeering trial in Muscogee Superior Court.
When Huntley left the witness stand, Chris Samra, an investigator for the district attorney, arrested and charged him with making false statements.
Police Sgt. Mike Dahnke interviewed Huntley twice in 2011, in August and December, when Huntley told the detective he had information on the Sept. 10, 2008, armed robbery of a CB&T bank branch at 5445 Forrest Road, and the Sept. 22, 2008, fatal shooting of David Coleman Jr. in an apartment at 730 Lawyers Lane.
Authorities allege Castille, her son Jamal Castille and codefendant Dantrell Marshall robbed the bank so they’d have money to get back in the crack business, after losing a shipment of cocaine worth $42,000 during a July 12, 2008, traffic stop in Texas. Prosecutors say the suspects killed Coleman, who supplied the guns for the robbery, because he was acting as a police informant.
Investigators say Jamal Castille later tried to stab Huntley to death with a “shank” or homemade knife when both were jailed at the same time and wound up in the same cell.
Testifying Thursday, Huntley said he was asleep in the cell when an assailant hiding his face with a jail shirt stabbed him five times, leaving wounds in his mouth, arm and leg. Jamal Castille was identified as Huntley’s attacker through tattoos on his torso, authorities said.
When Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker asked Huntley about his statements to Dahnke, the witness denied knowing anything about the robbery and homicide, and claimed he lied just to get out of the jail for a while, smoke Newports and eat food from Burger King.
Whitaker went through Huntley’s statements, each of which Huntley denied was true.
Among the information Whitaker said Huntley told Dahnke:
That Marshall, Daphene and Jamal Castille and Terrell Mars were involved in the armed robbery and Coleman’s homicide. (Mars will testify for the prosecution and is not on trial this week.)
That he was invited to join in the bank robbery but declined.
That money from the bank robbery was buried in Cusseta, Ga.
That Daphene Castille offered him $10,000-$15,000 to kill Coleman.
That she offered him $7,000 to dispose of two guns, which he placed in a weighted bag and threw into the Chattahoochee River. The guns were never recovered.
Huntley’s fear was evident when he was asked where his fiancé lives. He would not answer publicly, and was reluctant even to write an address down for only the attorneys to see. He said he and his fiancé have five children, and he would not put them at risk.
When Daphene Castille’s attorney Cynthia Lain later asked why he was so worried, Huntley replied: “I don’t want my family nowhere around this. Period.”
When Lain asked whether he had given the case much thought over the years, he answered flatly, “No.”
Lain noted one of Huntley’s statements to Dahnke was that he didn’t go retrieve the bank robbery loot from where it was buried because he didn’t want to get caught with cash from a robbery he didn’t commit. He claimed that was a lie, too: “I probably would have got that money,” he said.
He told Lain he had nothing to do with the case at all: “The only thing I did was lie, as far as this case.”
Also testifying Thursday was Ronald Samuel, whose blue 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier was used in the bank robbery.
He said he recalled that a friend named Erica Fortson rented his car out for crack, but could not recall who brought it back. “At that time I was drinking a lot, and I can’t remember faces,” he told Whitaker. He said he’d just lost his mother, his brother and his job, and, “I wasn’t prepared for all this.”
When he was unable to remember some of his earlier statements to authorities, Whitaker asked, “Were you really tore up?”
“I was. I really was,” he replied.
But he did recall that when a young woman and two young men brought his car back that night, he was taken to another house to report it stolen.
The details of that came from Daphene Castille’s sister Chandra Castille, who said Daphene Castille brought a man to her Montrose Drive home after midnight Sept. 13, 2008, and asked to use her telephone to report his car stolen. Daphene Castille said her own cellphone was dead, and offered to pay $2,000-$3,000 to use Chandra Castille’s home phone, the sister testified.
She said Samuel did appear to be intoxicated: “He was high on something. He was acting all weird to me.”
He reported his car was stolen from the yard of the Montrose Drive home. Chandra Castille later heard the car’s description from reports on the bank robbery and asked her sister about it, she said. Daphene Castille told her she was just “paranoid,” she said.
Testimony in the bank robbery, murder and racketeering trial resumes today at 9 a.m. in Judge William Rumer’s Government Center courtroom. Rumer told the jury Thursday that the proceedings will continue Saturday and Sunday.