A pretrial hearing Wednesday for two of three men charged in the fatal shooting of a Columbus barber during a 2012 crime spree became snagged over video recordings of witnesses’ statements to police.
Facing multiple counts that include armed robbery and murder in the Jan. 5 death of 30-year-old Charlie Artis at Charlie’s Barber Shop off Milgen Road, Edward Lee and Donteviouse Jarquis Doleman were in Judge Arthur Smith III’s courtroom for pretrial motions.
A third suspect, Demetrice Octavion Scott, pleaded guilty March 15 while agreeing to testify for the prosecution. Authorities have recommended he serve 30 years in prison with life on probation if he testifies as promised.
The hangup in Wednesday’s court hearing was the district attorney’s year-old policy prohibiting the immediate copying of witness videos for defense attorneys. District Attorney Julia Slater said it was prompted by an instance in which a recording was posted to Facebook, subjecting the witness to intimidation from a defendant’s supporters.
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Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys publicly would say who posted the video, though one privately remarked that the recording reportedly got to a defendant’s family, and a relative put it on Facebook.
Columbus attorneys Jennifer Curry, who represents Lee, and Will Kirby, who represents Doleman, said they cannot adequately prepare to defend their clients in a 21-count indictment unless they are able to copy such recordings for later review.
Assistant District Attorney Wesley Lambertus countered that the defense already had an opportunity to review a witness’ recorded statement two weeks ago, and the district attorney’s office previously provided such videos for defendants as a courtesy. Georgia law requires only that such evidence be available to the defense 10 days before the trial, he said.
He and Slater said prosecutors must protect the “safety and well-being” of witnesses before trial, else witnesses could be threatened by defendants’ cohorts, particularly in cases involving criminal gangs.
The trial is set to begin March 14, and could take two weeks.
Citing the 2000 Georgia Supreme Court case Taylor v. State, which held the law doesn’t require prosecutors to allow the copying of such statements, Smith said he was inclined to reject the defense arguments, but would wait to see whether attorneys can find some other authority to rely on.
The judge denied defense motions to suppress evidence police gained by searching a residence with the primary occupant’s consent.
That search on Jan. 19, 2012, was prompted by a 911 call reporting that police could find a stolen X-Box gaming system at an apartment in the 1400 block of 19th Street. That’s where police saw Scott leaving from a rear door, and found part of the X-Box system in a bedroom where he’d been sleeping.
They pressed the woman renting the apartment for her consent to search, and she relented. Then they found Lee in another bedroom with X-Box games, and under a bed in a third room recovered a .38-caliber Rohm-brand revolver.
Investigators said Lee used a .38-caliber revolver to shoot Artis in the left side outside the Gunboat Drive barber shop.
Curry argued her client had a reasonable expectation of privacy, even were he only an overnight guest at the apartment. Police at the time were investigating only a misdemeanor theft that did not justify a warrantless search, she said.
Lambertus countered that Lee had no standing to challenge the search, because he was not the primary occupant whose consent was needed. Also he denied owning the gun, so he had no justification to say it was seized illegally, the prosecutor said.
Smith denied the defense motion.
The judge agreed to a defense request to delete the suspects’ nicknames from their indictment, which their attorneys felt was unnecessary and could be prejudicial. According to the indictment, Lee’s alias is “Little Lee” and Doleman’s is “Toot” or “Tute.”
The suspects were jailed after the Jan. 19 apartment search, but investigators did not charge them with murder until March 23, 2012.
Police said the X-Box theft and barber shop homicide were among a string of crimes in which the suspects operated either in pairs or a three-man team. Authorities said other offenses they allegedly committed were:
A Dec. 15, 2011, armed robbery in which Scott and Doleman took a woman’s Kia Sport.
A second Dec. 15, 2011, armed robbery in which all three suspects took a woman’s Lexus.
A Dec. 20, 2011, attempted robbery and shooting at Hometown Grocery, 1159 27th St., where Lee and Scott shot twice at a 47-year-old man leaving the store, damaging a 2008 Honda Odyssey.
A Dec. 21, 2011, burglary at a 19th Street apartment, where Scott and Doleman took a TV, prescription drugs and the keys to a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox that was stolen six days later.
A Jan. 6, 2012, break-in at a 14th Street residence where they took $6,000 worth of goods.
A Jan. 11, 2012, burglary in which the three broke into a home in the 2300 block of 14th Avenue.
A Jan. 15, 2012, break-in at a 23rd Street home, where Scott raped the woman living there as the three took $1,000 worth of loot along with the woman’s 2006 Chevrolet Aveo.
Besides murder, court records show Lee, 23, faces three counts each of aggravated assault and using a firearm to commit a crime, two counts of burglary and one count each of attempted robbery and theft.
Doleman’s charges besides murder are three counts each of armed robbery and burglary and one count each of auto theft and theft by taking, court documents show. He is 24 years old.
Attorneys said Scott, 23, pleaded guilty to three counts each of aggravated assault, armed robbery and burglary, four counts of using a firearm to commit a felony, and one count each of rape, attempt to commit a felony, felony theft and misdemeanor theft.