The case against Julian Antun Holloway and Cecil Freeman Allen has been slowly making its way through the Newton County judicial system. But after more than two years, attorneys for both the defense and the prosecution have announced they are ready for trial.
Both men are charged with the March 10, 2008, murder of 20-year-old Ashley Obryant Vinson. Investigators allege that 20-year-old Holloway and 21-year-old Allen were buying about $20 worthof marijuana from Vinson, who Holloway knew from school, when a dispute arose and Vinson — who was in the backseat of Holloway’s car — was shot in the head at close range with a .40 caliber handgun.
The incident took place in the parking lot of the Magnolia Heights apartment complex around 3 p.m. Holloway and Allen then fled to Holloway’s mother’s home in The Links subdivision. Witnesses called 911 and reported that a person had been shot, but when officers from the Covington Police Department arrived, they were unable to locate a victim. They later found him, still in the backseat of Holloway’s car, which had been parked in his mother’s garage.
Holloway’s attorney Thomas J. Ford, presented several motions in court Tuesday afternoon, including a motion to request a Jackson-Denno hearing, which would determine if statements made by Holloway to detectives following the shooting should be suppressed.
According to Ford, when Holloway was removed from his home he was led to a patrol car in handcuffs by armed officers and taken to an interrogation room at the Covington Police Department. He said that CPD Captain Craig Treadwell, told Holloway, then 18, that after they were done speaking with him he could go home.
“The first thing they said to this 18-year-old was ‘if you talk to us you’ll go home’,” said Ford, who also argued that during the first interview with Holloway, detectives did not read him his Miranda rights.
“At the time Captain Treadwell made that statement it was true,” argued Newton County Assistant Distrct Attorney Clint C. Malcolm.
Malcolm also pointed out that the point of the first interview with Holloway was to gather facts and that the room was not locked, he was not restrained, and he was told that he could leave if he chose to do so. That was also the reason his Miranda rights were not read to him at that time.
Ford also introduced a motion to dismiss several of Holloway’s 14 charges, including all four felony murder charges, murder, kidnapping, all four charges of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, felony marijuana possession, aggravated assault and false imprisonment. That leaves two charges against Holloway, one of tampering with evidence and the other of removing a body from the scene of death.
According to Ford, Vinson willingly got into Holloway’s vehicle and there is no evidence to suggest he was restrained or kept there against his will, the amount of marijuana in question was small and it is unclear whom the handgun that was used in the shooting belonged to and who brought it into the car.
“They overcharged these young men,” he said. He also argued that if Vinson was dead, Holloway and Allen should not be charged with kidnapping.
“It [the gunshot] severed the brain stem and he died before he hit the floorboard,” said Ford. “There’s no kidnapping.”
Malcolm said they did not know exactly when Vinson died and because Holloway and Allen left the scene with him still in the car, it constituted kidnapping.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s $1,000 worth of dope or $20 worth of dope, drugs and guns go together,” said Malcolm.
Newton County Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton told Ford that if all the charges against Holloway were dismissed, there was no need for a trial. After Ford’s responses to some of Benton’s questions became brusque, Benton cautioned the defense attorney about what he deemed disrespect.
“You need to calm down,” said Benton. “I’m all for zealousness, but I’m a judge in Superior Court and you are not going to disrespect this court.”
After apologizing, Ford argued his last motion, which was a request to suppress statements made and evidence collected at the Holloway home prior to a warrant being obtained.
According to Malcolm, Holloway led officers to the evidence in question and all statements made were unsolicited or made when he was not under arrest. He also argued that there was a risk of evidence being destroyed or removed, which gave officers cause to collect it.
Allen’s attorney Mark R. Gaffney was also present in the courtroom. He echoed Ford’s request in regards to the Jackson-Denno hearing, saying that at one point prior to signing a statement, Allen said, “I hope I’m doing the right thing,” and that Treadwell told him, “This will be your last chance to tell your story.”
Malcolm said that he believed the law was on the side of the prosecution regarding statements of that kind, which allow members of law enforcement to use statements like that as interview tactics.
The trial for both Allen and Holloway is scheduled to begin in September. An exact date has not yet been announced.