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Posted: June 3, 2009 12:01 a.m.

Thornton '08 murder trial begins

After more than a year, the trail against Courtney C. Thornton began Tuesday morning with Judge Eugene Benton presiding. Thornton, 26, is accused of shooting 39-year-old Dennis Rogers in the back of the head.

Thornton pled not guilty to the crime, but the district attorney’s office alleges that, based on the evidence, Thornton was in the back passenger seat of a 2001 Jaguar S-class driven by Edwin Wynn, seated behind Rogers when the trio went in search of a small bag of marijuana.

On the way back from purchasing the drugs Thornton is being accused of putting a .38 Special revolver to the back of Rogers' head and pulling the trigger, rendering Rogers brain dead immediately. Rogers did remain breathing for several days before dying in an Atlanta hospital. The driver of the vehicle allegedly fought for his life against Thornton, who attempted to shoot him as well and rob him of $110.

The state began with testimony, calling several witnesses, including Deputy Larry Wiggington, who was flagged down by Wynn the night of the shooting.

Wiggington told the jury that he noticed Wynn running toward him while he was parked in the Kroger parking lot on Salem Road. The deputy called for assistance while remaining with Wynn for awhile.

"My intentions were to go and check the area," he said. "But Wynn asked me not to leave. He said he was scared."

Chief Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Dr. Jacqueline Martin, spoke next, explaining what she found during Roger’s autopsy, including where the bullet entered his head at the base of his skull and where it came to stop in his brain.

Corporal Bret Langley, the first officer on the scene, told jurors how he found the vehicle – in the middle of the road with the lights still on – and how Rogers was slumped over the center console of the vehicle.

According to Langley, he checked for vital signs and was unable to find them – though EMS did find signs of life shortly thereafter – and how Rogers had extensive head trauma and a large amount of blood on him. His hat had also either gotten knocked off when he was shot or had fallen off and it was, according to Langley, "covered in blood."

The prosecution’s star witness, Edwin Wynn, also spoke to the jury, describing in great detail his version of the events the night of Dec. 31, 2007, when he first started discussing getting a "dime bag" of marijuana – enough for approximately two blunts, or joints – with Rogers, until around 3:30 a.m., when he said Thornton shot Rogers without provocation, then turned the gun on him.

For the rest of the coverage of the trial of Courtney Thornton, see Friday’s edition of The Covington News and make sure to check www.covnews.com for breaking news of the verdict when it comes in.

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