Judge grants motion to sever. Trial of one defendant underway, one on hold
The murder trial that began with five defendants charged in the 2016 death of Deonn Carter is now down to one.
After three of the five pleaded to other charges Monday, Judge Ron Mullins granted prosecutor George Lipscomb’s motion to sever the trials of the remaining two, leaving only alleged triggerman Tyquez Darnell Davis to face jurors this week.
His last codefendant, Dequoyae Devon Waldon, 25, will be tried later on charges of murder and aggravated assault.
Lipscomb moved to sever the cases so that Davis’ statements to police implicating Waldon would remain admissible evidence.
Were Davis and Waldon tried together, the jury would not hear those statements unless Davis took the witness stand, because Waldon has a constitutional right to confront his accuser in court. Had Davis chosen not to testify, Waldon’s defense attorney Stacey Jackson would have had no opportunity to cross-examine him, violating Waldon’s right to a fair trial.
Besides murder, Davis, 20, faces multiple felony charges related to auto thefts and a series of burglaries reported around the same time as Carter’s fatal shooting on Aug. 9, 2016.
Carter, 31, was an autistic man who became well known to local police and firefighters he befriended through his job at Columbus’ Piggly Wiggly store on River Road. He died in the hospital 11 days after the shooting, and was honored with an outpouring of support from uniformed public safety workers at his funeral.
After Mullins’ granted Lipscomb’s motion to sever Davis’ trial from Waldon’s, Lipscomb and Davis’ defense attorney Jennifer Curry spent much of the day Tuesday picking a jury of 12 women and three men, with three of the jurors serving as alternates who will join in the deliberations only if they are needed to replace any of the 12 who are to decide on the verdict.
Mullins set opening statements for 9 a.m. Wednesday in his Government Center courtroom.
Besides Waldon and Davis, the other suspects charged in Carter’s homicide were Travarus Daiquan Thomas, 22; Quamaine Quinzell Thomas, 21; and Tauron Mykevious Stepney, 21.
On Monday, Travarus Thomas pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and three counts of burglary. Quamaine Thomas and Stepney each pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.
Travarus Thomas and Quamaine Thomas are expected to testify during Davis’ trial.
Lipscomb said the five were traveling in a stolen Nissan Titan pickup when they passed Carter about 9:30 p.m., as Carter walked away from mailboxes outside the Parkside at Britt David apartments, 5443 Armour Road.
When they circled back, Davis taunted and threatened Carter, then got out of the truck, put a pistol in Carter’s face and demanded his possessions, as the other suspects egged Davis on, Lipscomb said.
Carter gave Davis his cell phone and tried to run away as Davis shot him in the leg, the prosecutor said.
During a hearing Tuesday afternoon on a defense motion to limit the evidence the jury will hear, police Sgt. Robert Nicholas said he questioned Davis after the suspect’s arrest on Aug. 18, 2016, asking about the theft two days earlier of a 2012 Chevrolet Suburban, stolen from what was then the Hughston Sports Medicine Hospital at 100 Frist Court, off Veterans Parkway.
Davis admitted stealing the SUV, and told Nicholas he used the vehicle to commit several burglaries, the detective said, so Nicholas asked which burglaries he was talking about.
“He indicated that he couldn’t possibly remember them all,” the officer said. So Nicholas and another detective drove Davis around town as the suspect pointed out the homes he broke into, Nicholas said.
Davis subsequently was indicted in 10 residential burglaries that occurred between July 25 and Aug. 16, 2016.
Another detective, Sgt. Harvey Hatcher, who since has retired, testified he questioned Davis about Carter’s shooting. He said Davis initially claimed he’d only heard about Carter’s assault, but later admitted being present. Davis blamed the shooting on Waldon, Hatcher said.
Davis volunteered that Carter was shot with a .38-caliber handgun, a detail police had not disclosed, the detective said: “He told us. We didn’t tell him.”
Mullins ruled the statements Davis gave police were admissible in trial testimony.
Besides murder and 10 counts of burglary, Davis is to be tried on charges of aggravated assault, possessing a pistol while younger than 18, and two counts of auto theft.