Update: After more than seven hours of deliberation, the jury in the murder and racketeering trial of Daphene Castille and two codefendants has been dismissed until Monday.
Jurors began deliberating at 10:02 a.m. Friday and worked through lunch with food delivered to the jury room. Judge William Rumer released them at 5:40 p.m. with instructions to return at 9 a.m. Monday.
Original story: “The mastermind,” “the godmother,” “the general” and “the Judas goat” were among the terms used to describe Daphene Castille during closing arguments Thursday in her murder and racketeering trial.
Prosecutors and an attorney for one of Castille’s two codefendants described the mother of six as the matriarch of a crime organization involved in dealing cocaine, robbing a bank and killing a Columbus police informant who was her cousin.
“Daphene Castille is like a general. She gives the orders. She calls the shots,” said Tim Flournoy, the attorney for Dantrell Marshall, who along with Castille’s son Jamal also is on trial. He told jurors she was the “Judas goat,” a goat used to lead sheep into a slaughterhouse, and Marshall was the “scapegoat” who took the fall for her crimes.
Flournoy went on to talk about two others charged in the racketeering scheme: “Jamal Castille, Daphene Castille’s son, is the head hitman,” he said. Of the other suspect, Daphene Castille’s former boyfriend Terrell Mars, a prosecution witness who’s not on trial, Flournoy said: “Terrell Mars is her lying live-in lover and a career bank robber.”
Still Daphene Castille was the “big-time drug dealer” who ran the show, Flournoy said, referring to the movie “The Godfather” as he told jurors a movie about the racketeering case would be titled “The Godmother” and star Daphene Castille.
Though deflecting blame from his client, the defense attorney sounded more like a prosecutor as he recounted the prosecution’s case, which was based on these events in 2008:
On July 12, a Texas state trooper stopped Daphene Castille’s red Dodge Magnum for following too closely on Interstate 10 east of Houston. The driver, Johnerson Adams, tried to run away. He, Daphene Castille and Dantrell Marshall were detained when troopers found about $42,000 worth of cocaine in the car.
On Sept. 10, Jamal Castille and Terrell Mars robbed the CB&T bank branch then located at 5445 Forrest Road. Marshall admitted driving the getaway car. Prosecutors allege Daphene Castille wanted the loot to pay lawyers and buy more cocaine to make up for the Texas loss.
On Sept. 22, police informant David Coleman, who was feeding investigators tips on the bank robbery, was gunned down just inside the window of his apartment at 730 Lawyers Lane, property Daphene Castille owns. Prosecutors claim Daphene Castille wanted Coleman dead when she learned he was telling police about her, and she asked her son to kill the tipster.
Flournoy said Jamal Castille and Terrell Mars killed Coleman, who was hit six times in a barrage of gunfire that came through his bedroom window about 2 in the morning.
“They shot him down in cold blood,” Flournoy said, citing testimony the two had guns matching the .40-caliber and .380-caliber shell casings found outside Coleman’s window. Mars testified they threw those guns in the Chattahoochee River.
Daphene Castille’s attorney tried to minimize her client’s involvement.
“Daphene Castille was a drug dealer,” acknowledged Cynthia Lain, admitting the evidence showed her client was involved in drug transactions: “But those transactions do not involve murder.”
Her client also was involved in trying to cover up the bank robbery, burning evidence, hiding the loot and paying the man who owned the getaway car to report it stolen from her sister’s house, Lain said, but she’s not on trial for that.
Nothing proves Daphene Castille ordered the bank robbery or Coleman’s killing, said Lain: “I submit to you Terrell Mars committed the murder.”
Homicide wasn’t her client’s “game,” Lain said: “Her game was dealing drugs, not killing people, not robbing people.”
That Daphene Castille was not an admirable character doesn’t make her a killer, Lain said: “You can’t convict her for her moral or lack of moral standing.”
Jamal Castille’s attorney, Suellen Fleming, said prosecutors failed to prove the racketeering case because the defendants were never a “continuing unit” as the law requires for an ongoing criminal enterprise.
“These people are not mobsters,” Fleming said, adding the prosecution also failed to tie her client to Coleman’s killing: “He did not participate in this murder.”
Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker contended the evidence obviously put Daphene Castille at the center of a crime ring: “Everything about this case revolves around Daphene.”
He cited video recordings from a Texas state trooper’s cruiser in which Daphene Castille, Marshall and their driver Johnerson Adams were detained during the July 2008 traffic stop.
On the recording, Castille told Adams that Marshall would “take the charge” or tell troopers the cocaine in her car was his, then she told Marshall to do just that.
“Who took charge?” Whitaker asked jurors.
Of Lain’s saying Daphene Castille knew nothing of the bank robbery until afterward, Whitaker noted Mars was assembling gear for the heist in the bedroom he shared with Castille at 852 Englewood Drive, where the robbers went as soon as they left the bank.
They dumped the loot on the bed there and divided it up before Daphene Castille arrived, consolidated the cash and took it first to an aunt’s house and later to a relative’s property in Cusseta, Ga., where it was buried in a cooler, Whitaker said. If she was angry or surprised about a robbery she had no role in planning, she didn’t show it then, he said.
The prosecutor also reminded jurors of a witness who adamantly recanted what he’d told police about the bank robbery and homicide, saying he didn’t want to put his family at risk.
The witness was scared because Jamal Castille had stabbed him in the county jail for being a snitch, Whitaker said, adding, “You’re not even safe in the jail from these people.”
Jamal Castille wanted to kill that witness to silence him, just as Daphene Castille wanted Coleman killed to silence him, the prosecutor said.
Mars, whose left eye was heavily bandaged when he testified for prosecutors, said he also was assaulted in the jail for agreeing to testify against Daphene Castille.
Closing arguments Thursday took most of the day, leaving no time for jury deliberations. Rumer said he would instruct jurors on the law and then dismiss them with instructions to return this morning to start reviewing the evidence.