UPDATE, Feb. 15, 6:36 p.m.: The murder trial of defendants Ntyono Aaron Oketo Pennie and Torrence Sanders vs. the state of Georgia on Tuesday had more of the feel of five trials rather than one.
In front of Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation and the Rockdale County Courthouse, Rockdale County District Attorney Richard Read tried to prove to the jury that the 22-year old Pennie and 27-year old Sanders were guilty of several counts, including felony murder, armed robbery aggravated assault, possession of firearm and fleeing police during an incident on Feb. 23, 2010.
The attorneys for the defendants both tried to show the jury the case is actually two incidents, the car accident that claimed the life of Shirley Akins, and a robbery at the Harvest Grove apartments off Iris Drive.
Furthermore, Pennie's attorney, Brian Ross of Covington, and Sanders' attorney, Chris Flinn of Decatur also each had their own versions of what the evidence said about their individual clients.
Ross said in his opening statement, "Our take on what we expect the evidence to show is different from what the other attorneys talked about. (Danny Rakeshaw) made a gesture to a certain part of his body. Danny Boy made a gesture of going toward a handgun. A weapon ends up being pointed at Mr. Pennie, and a struggle ensued. During the struggle shots were fired."
Flinn, who gave his opening statement before Ross, told the court that it was a trial of a case in two parts.
"First is at the apartment, and second is when Miss Akins died in the accident," Pennie said. "The second part totally depends on what happened in the apartment."
Read began the trial with his opening statement, telling the jury that they would hear from witnesses a description of the evening, that showed fingerprints, DNA testing and eye witnesses.
Read brought several pieces of evidence before the jury, including dozens of photos from the accident, the apartment, Pennie on the night of Feb. 23, 2010 and of Akins.
There were also six witnesses on the first day of the trial starting with Rockdale County Sherriff's Deputy Brandon Douglass. Douglass was the deputy who pursued the black Nissan Maxima Sanders and Pennie were driving in on the night in question.
Douglass picked up on the vehicle on Flat Shoals Rd and when the traffic light turned green the defendants sped off starting the chase. The chase then proceeded toward the intersection of Flat Shoals Rd and Salem Rd, ending with the accident claiming the life of Akins.
Douglass said the chase reached excesses of 65-70 miles per hour, as was evident in State's Exhibit one, which was Douglass' in-car video.
The video showed the chase through the point of the accident, where a person with white shoes attempted to get out of the passenger side of the vehicle. The door would not open and he got out the driver's side. A later witness, Emanuel Asamua, said he saw Sanders wearing the same white shoes, which were also presented as evidence, when he was robbed at his apartment.
Two more deputies took the witness stand, followed by a witness who was taking her children home from practice at the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association fields.
"I told my daughters to cover their eyes because the car was coming so fast," she said of the Nissan speeding behind her before it went into the straight lane through the intersection.
Read continued to recount the accident as he had Akins sister, Barbara Hodges on the witness stand, who stated that her late sister was going to Bible study.
The court then turned to the incident at the apartment as the person who was shot there took the stand.
Dannie (D-Boy or Danny Boy) Rakeshaw took the stand. He said he knew Pennie from when he lived in the neighborhood in 2006. According to Rakeshaw, Pennie wanted to come up to listen to some of his tracks, or music beats for rap songs that he sells.
Rakeshaw described the night as the three of them waiting an hour before his brother, Asamua and his roommate arrived. Rakeshaw and the defendants were drinking beers, smoking marijuana and free-style rapping. When Rakeshawl who was standing in the kitchen, said when his roommate arrived home from work he handed him some beer and went in the other room.
Then when the marijuana blunt was passed to Rakeshaw, Sanders put a gun to his head. According to Rakeshaw, the defendants had the other two people in the apartment lie on the ground and took their wallets and 500 to 800 dollars in cash that Asamua had on him.
Pennie than said someone had to get shot, and as Rakeshaw was kneeling behind the island bar in the kitchen, he fired two shots causing debris to come up from the floor. Pennie then held a gun to Rakeshaw's head and Rakeshaw reached for the gun with his left hand and punched him with his right.
It was then that a shot was fired into his wrist, the bullet lodging into his elbow. Pennie's gun jammed, the casing was later found in the chamber of the weapon, and he took off to Sanders waiting in the parking lot in the Nissan.
After telling his side to Read, Flinn asked Rakeshaw questions, including if he knew Pennie prior several times, receiving slightly different versions of an answer.
Ross then had his turn, pointing out that Rakeshaw and Pennie had an altercation in prison and making Rakeshaw's less-than clean arrest record known to the jury.
"Given your record and history why should the jury believe you?" Ross asked.
The last witness of the day was Asamua, who again gave an account to the District Attorney. Asamua said he was in the apartment with Rakeshaw, Pennie and Sanders for 15 minutes before Rakeshaw's roommate arrived. He said Rakeshaw , Sanders and Pennie were smoking marijuana but not drinking.
Asamua, in the promotions business, went to the apartment to discuss business about Rakeshaw's tracks. Asamua said the two were discussing business when Rakeshaw's roommate came in, holding just his work equipment.
He then described the incident as Rakeshaw did, stating he remembered the white shoes of Sanders.
The trial will continue Wednesday with more witnesses and evidence starting at 9 a.m.
IN BRIEF: The trials for two men accused of robbing and shooting a man and killing a woman in a car crash while they fled are underway this week, with opening statements and testimony from deputies and robbery victims.
Ntyono Pennie, 21, and Torrence Sanders, 27, reportedly robbed and shot one of the residents of a Harvest Grove apartment off of Iris Drive last February and fled the scene in a car, crashing into another vehicle at the intersection of Salem Road and Flat Shoals Road and killing the driver, a 56-year-old Newton County woman.
In opening statements, defense attornies Brian Ross, who is representing Pennie, and Christopher Flynn, who is representing Sanders, acknowleged the accident could not be denied. Rockale County District Attorney Richard Read also stated the same.
However, the defense attornies questioned the armed robbery, and Flynn pointed out his client allegedly did not do the shooting or the driving.
The jury heard testimony from three deputies that responded to the incident that evening as well as the robbery victim who was shot and his brother.
The shooting victim reportedly knew Pennie vaguely from having lived in the same neighborhood. He saw him earlier that day on February 23, 2010, and invited Pennie into the residence to listen to music, drink beer, and smoke marijuana.
Check back for the full story on www.rockdalenews.com later today.