A double-carjacking trial got wrapped around the axle Thursday as a defense attorney asked a detective why police showed witnesses photo lineups that didn’t include the two men on trial.
It was a touchy subject, because a complete answer could have caused a mistrial.
Investigators showed witnesses to the two carjackings of June 28, 2012, multiple photo lineups because one of the two men on trial, Dearius Ransom, also is accused of participating in a string of armed robberies earlier that month.
Ransom is one of three suspects in those incidents, and police in 2012 thought perhaps they were involved in the carjackings, too, so detectives showed carjacking witnesses photo lineups that included those suspects.
Ransom and his codefendants are yet to be tried on those charges, and his codefendant in the carjackings, Joshua Dodson, faces no accusations in those earlier cases.
Had police Sgt. John Bailey told defense attorney Will Kirby about those other cases in front of the jury, it would have been prejudicial, possibly causing jurors to believe the defendants must be guilty if they were involved in other crimes.
As Kirby, who represents Ransom, continued to press Bailey about the photo lineups, prosecutor Wesley Lambertus objected, and Judge Art Smith III had jurors leave the courtroom.
With the jury out, defense attorney Tim Flournoy, who represents Dodson, told Smith he would seek a mistrial were his client implicated in crimes he’s not accused of. Lambertus said he knew of no way to defend against a mistrial if jurors heard about the other cases.
Kirby argued he didn’t want Bailey to mention Ransom’s other indictment, but he did want the detective to explain why five more photo lineups were in the carjackings case file.
A photo lineup is a set of six mugshots an officer shows witnesses, asking if they recognize anyone. If witnesses pick someone out, the officer has them circle the photo, write how they recognize the person, then sign and date it.
While the jury was out, Bailey explained that in June 2012, police were conducting “parallel” investigations of the robberies and the carjackings, so detectives showed the carjacking witnesses all the photo lineups.
None of the carjacking witnesses identified any of the earlier robbery suspects except Ransom.
After some debate, Smith allowed Kirby to ask Bailey only general questions about the other lineups.
Ransom and Dodson are on trial for robbing a woman of her 2003 Chevrolet Impala shortly after midnight at the Pure service station on Fort Benning Road, then using that car in a second carjacking later that same day on St. Mary’s Road, where they allegedly robbed a man of his 2001 Ford Crown Vic.
Witnesses testified Ransom drove the Impala in the later robbery, and Dodson at gunpoint took the Ford from owner Derrick Moore as Moore’s girlfriend watched.
When later shown photo lineups, Moore picked out Ransom but not Dodson. His girlfriend Lindsay Walker picked out both, telling police she knew Ransom by the nickname “Tago” and she had seen him with Dodson before.
The Impala later was seen at the Econo Lodge on Victory Drive, where a prostitute told police she had seen Ransom, but not Dodson. Flournoy wanted to ask Bailey about that, but the prostitute could not be found.
Because she would not be in court to be cross-examined, such testimony would be hearsay, the judge decided. Flournoy then moved for a mistrial, arguing his client’s constitutional right of due process was violated because Flournoy was denied the opportunity to fully cross-examine Bailey. Smith denied the motion.
He also denied Kirby’s motion for a directed verdict of acquittal. Kirby said the witnesses were so inconsistent in their testimony of what happened as compared to what they told police in 2012 that the evidence was insufficient.
The prosecution concluded its case Thursday, and the defense attorneys said they would call no witnesses. Dodson and Ransom declined to testify.Smith set closing arguments for 9 a.m. today in his seventh-floor Government Center courtroom.