The trial of a Newton County teen for the murder of Kawasikis Ricks began Tuesday with opening statements and testimony from co-defendants in Newton County Superior Court.
Trevarius Dexter White, 17, who was 16 years old at the time of the shooting on June 19, 2007, faces counts of murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Four other co-defendants similarly charged pleaded guilty earlier and took the stand against him, giving testimony that seemed at times contradictory to earlier statements they had given investigators. A total of 15 witnesses, experts, investigators and co-defendants were called to the stand yesterday.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon walked the jury through the complicated plot they would hear of the alleged armed robbery-turned-murder that occurred the night between June 18 and 19.
Defense attorney John Strauss warned the jury they would see problems in the testimony of Justin Hall, who had brokered the drug deal and was with Ricks the night he was shot.
Strauss said one of the co-defendants, Clarence Benton, believed Ricks and Hall were armed and that Ricks intended to rob the co-defendants.
He also pointed out the interview transcripts and recordings of Ricks two associates, Joshua Brindle and Cornelius Hamm, had disappeared.
According to Zon, a drug deal had been set up for Ricks to buy 20 pounds of marijuana from a man named Terrance Reid, 21, for about $11,000 at the Hidden Pines subdivision. Reid and his four associates - Clarence Benton, Brandon Hudnal, Marino Tuggle, and White - never brought the 20 pounds of marijuana, intending to rob Ricks of the money. But Ricks may have also had counterfeit currency, said Zon.
The night of the deal, Ricks, Hall, Brindle and Hamm came to the Hidden Pines subdivision but became nervous when they were met by a man they didn't know - Benton - who also seemed nervous.
The deal was called off and everybody left the neighborhood. Ricks and Hall came back to the subdivision after Reid reassured them, and they were met by the same man, Benton, who led them to the back of the carport at the house. There, they were met by White, who had a shotgun pointed at them and reportedly told them to give up what they had.
As Ricks turned to run, he was allegedly shot in the back of the neck by White and fell face-first. His body was reportedly turned over and the money in his pocket taken.
"It was just a consequence, a by-product of the robbery," Zon said. "Kawasikis Ricks died for nothing."
During his testimony, Hall reenacted for the jury how he and Ricks had approached the carport and encountered White with a shotgun, similar to the Mossberg pistol-grip shotgun Hall had sold to Reid a few weeks before. Hall fled in the opposite direction of Ricks as soon as he saw the gun, running right out of his sneakers, which were left near the property, and defecating in his pants from fear. He flagged down a passing driver, who took him near Hall's apartment, and went to his mother's house. His mother, who also testified, notified deputies about her son's involvement.
Strauss pointed out Hall had initially lied to investigators about the extent of the deal, saying there had only been a pound of marijuana involved.
When asked why the jury should believe him now, Hall replied, "I just want some closure for my friend's family. There's no point in hiding the truth."
Reid, who had entered a guilty plea only the day before for armed robbery, conspiracy to murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, receiving a sentence of 25 years in confinement, told jurors they had originally intended to rob Ricks by attacking him with a brick, but called off the deal the first time because Benton believed Ricks' group had a gun.
When asked why he hadn't told investigators this previously, he said it slipped his mind.
Reid and his group went to get a shotgun from White's house and arranged the second meeting with Ricks, parking in a back street while Benton and White went to meet the victim. After hearing a shot, Benton and White came back to the car. White allegedly said, "I burned him," according to Reid.
The co-defendants gave testimony that conflicted with each other in details such as who had the money, who had the gun and who had gotten rid of the gun.
In court, White, dressed in a suit slightly too big for his frame, sat through the testimony and made little eye contact with friends and family members who filled the court benches behind him. Relatives and supporters of the victim also filled the pews behind the prosecution. Rick's aunt submitted in court a photograph of Ricks with one of his 8 children, and despite admonishments by Judge John Ott against emotional outbursts, another relative was overcome when the jury viewed crime scene pictures of the victim's body on the front lawn.
Testimony from witnesses called by the defense continues today starting at 9 a.m.