The murder trial of Dequandrea Truitt and Shaquille Porter turned into a parade of Muscogee County Jail inmates on Tuesday in a defense effort to impeach one of the prosecution’s key witnesses.
Three female inmates testified that they overheard LaQuoia Arnold make statements about the truthfulness of her testimony last week. Arnold was the girlfriend of Charles Foster Jr., 24, who died after a burst of gunfire rang out around 2:15 a.m. Jan. 1, 2013, in the Majestic Sports Bar.
Both defendants face two counts of murder, seven of aggravated assault and two of using firearms to commit a felony. Arnold, who is being held in the jail on in unrelated case, testified Feb. 19 and 20. On Thursday night, coverage of the trial was on a television in the jail dorm where Arnold and about 30 other inmates were housed. Inmates Felicia Mercer, Lavonya Daniel and Maria Stanford all testified that Arnold bragged about lying on the witness stand and said she was too high on marijuana to have known what happened in the Majestic Sports Bar that night.
All three women are felons.
Daniel reached out to Jackson via a phone call from the jail.
Mercer testified the conversation started over a debate about Truitt’s defense attorney Stacey Jackson. “She said, ‘He ain’t all that. He didn’t catch the lies that I told,’” Mercer told the court.
Arnold was also called back to the witness stand Tuesday where she denied making the statements.
During her testimony last week, Arnold gave one of the most detailed accounts of what happened inside the Cusseta Road nightclub that night.
In her previous testimony, Arnold testified that she and Truitt walked out side by side and she noticed he had a gun in his hand. Outside a friend told her Foster didn’t make it out, so she went back inside the club.
There, she found Foster dying on the floor. Others wounded by gunfire also remained inside, including a man shot in the leg who lay by the dance floor speakers, screaming.
Another witness on Tuesday said Arnold, who talked Foster into going to the club, had been smoking marijuana but not drinking that night.
Kenyona Williams says she told Arnold, who was inside the club, to shut up after the shooting.
“She was hooping, hollering, beating the walls,” she said.
Williams testified she did not like what she was seeing inside the Majestic Sports Bar that night.
“Didn’t like the atmosphere in the club,” she said. “I seen a lot of minors. I don’t like being around minors.”
Tuesday was a tense day as the trial moves into the middle of its second week.
A morning of testimony from defense witnesses ended in a tense exchange between prosecutor LaRae Moore and defense attorney Michael Eddings, who represents Porter.
The exchange came as Porter’s younger sister, Aaliyah Porter, finished more than an hour of testimony.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Alonza Whitaker asked Aaliyah Porter if she had talked to Eddings about her testimony. Eddings objected. When Eddings got a chance to question Aaliyah Porter again, he asked her if he told her to tell the truth. At that point, Whitaker objected.
“If (Eddings) wants to testify, I would be glad to cross-examine him,” Whitaker said from the prosecution table. When the witness was finished testifying and the jury was dismissed for lunch, Eddings approached Moore, who is the lead attorney in the case. At one point, she walked away and said in a louder than normal voice, “ talk to the man.”
Muscogee County Superior Court Judge William Rumer was still on the bench at the time of the exchange. He made no comment.
Eddings and Moore declined to comment on the incident.
Whitaker made no apologies for asking Aaliyah Porter questions about her conversations with Eddings.
“I guess he feels by asking that question — ‘Did you talk to Mr. Eddings?’ — that I placed his ethics in question,” Whitaker said. “I have asked that question to witnesses for 20 years.”
Eddings, once one of Columbus’ top real estate attorneys, has been doing mostly criminal defense work since October 2011, when his law firm was accused of misappropriating funds from its trust account.
Eddings has contended that he had nothing to do with the missing funds and his former wife, Sonya Eddings, has taken blame for the misappropriations in a written statement and deposition during a federal civil trial.
Aaliyah Porter and Williams spent most of the morning on the witness stand. Williams is the cousin of Truitt, one of the defendants. Both women were in the Majestic Sports Bar at the time of the shooting and neither could identify the shooters. In addition to Foster’s death, six other people were injured in a burst of at least 20 shots, according to evidence found at the scene. The shooting started on the club’s dance floor and spread to the parking lot.
Moore questioned Williams about her lack of cooperation until the case reached trial. She was not interviewed by police or the district attorney’s office, though she did testify in a Columbus Recorder’s Court hearing a week after the shooting.
Asked by Moore why Williams never gave police a statement, she told the court she decided, “I would just tell it to the judge.”
Truitt’s defense attorney quickly seized on the opportunity when it came his turn to question Williams.
Jackson, in a loud theatrical voice, asked Williams about Moore: “She wasn’t interested in what you had to say?” Williams responded: “That is how I feel.”
Williams also testified that she wanted to talk to the police when the shooting began, but then said officers were “nasty” when they arrived.
“You wanted police to help you but you didn’t want to help police,” Moore responded in her questioning of Williams.
Rumer also had to lecture attorneys about the behavior of defense witnesses outside the courtroom. To separate the sides, defense witnesses were put in a room off of Judge Frank Jordan’s courtroom. Rumer said they “abused” the room and were uninvited to remain.
The trial is scheduled to resume this morning at 9:30 a.m. in Muscogee County Superior Court.