03/20/09 — Murder defendant testifies at trial

View Archive

Murder defendant testifies at trial

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 20, 2009 1:46 PM

Full Size

Roderick Miles Davis Jr.

A man accused of killing two men in August 2006 took the stand in his own defense Thursday, as his attorney argued the shooting was an act of self-defense.

Roderick Miles Davis Jr., 25, faces two counts of first-degree murder. Proseuctors are not seeking the death penalty.

Attorney Geoff Hulse, Davis' defense lawyer, addressed him as "Ricky," as he took the stand on Thursday afternoon.

"Ricky," Hulse said. "Is it your testimony that there were four incidences at your home where there ... where people shot at you?"

The defendant would later say that one of his alleged victims, James Lee Croom, had pointed a gun at him from a car.

Both Croom, 24, of Bizzell Court, and Transond Javoy "T.J." Gerald, 20, of Prince Avenue, were killed when Davis allegedly opened fire on their car.

Hulse had Davis stand behind the witness stand with a magic marker and draw the points on a map near his Slaughter Street home in Goldsboro, noting the places where he said he was fired upon.

Hulse recounted the early days after the shooting, when police searched for Davis' alleged accomplice, Jerron Lamar Russell of Courtyard Apartments, who was also originally charged with two counts of murder.

"You got to the point where you ... turned yourself in and talked to the investigator. I was going to ask you to look at State's Exhibit 283, and do you recognize that?"

"Yes, sir," Davis responded.

"And did you sign that? And did that give the directions to where the gun was at? And your quote, that Mr. (Investigator Dale) Foster wrote down, that 'I shot those boys?'"

Davis affirmed all of his attorney's questions, then asked Davis if he had been consistent in describing the evening in question, just after 8 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2006.

"Have you changed your story in any fashion about what happened that day, from when you turned yourself in to when you testified here?" Hulse asked.

The attorney asked Davis why he didn't tell police the shooting was an act of self-defense. Davis replied that he had tried to say as little as possible, fearing anything he said might be used against him.

Hulse then asked Davis to confirm that he had been in Wayne County Jail since Aug. 23, and had seen his children twice since that time.

Assistant District Attorney Matt Delbridge was allowed to cross-examine Davis by Judge Paul Gessner.

"Mr. Davis, how did it make you feel when you lied to your own mama?" the assistant district attorney said, his first question to the defendant.

"Feel bad," replied Davis.

"That didn't stop you from lying to her again," Delbridge said.

Hulse objected to the form of the question. Gessner sustained the objection because Delbridge did not specify what Davis had allegedly lied about to his mother, or when, and the prosecutor rephrased .

"Didn't you tell us that you lied to your mom at least three or four times that weekend?

"I didn't want my momma to worry, so I gave her something else," Davis said.

"So it's okay to lie sometimes. So the end justifies the means," the assistant district attorney said. "So certain times, it's okay to lie."

"It's never OK to lie," Davis said.

"It didn't stop you from doing it," Delbridge said.

"Pretty much," Davis said in response.

The district attorney then asked Davis about his childhood, saying that Davis had had a good upbringing.

"Your momma and daddy loved each other, they were together the whole time you were growing up. ... And it looks like you probably had what you needed growing up as a child. Your parents loved you. Sisters loved you. Took you to church, taught you right from wrong, didn't they."

"Yes, sir," Davis said in response.

"So when did it start going bad for you, Mr. Davis?" the district attorney asked.

"As far as the incident?" the defendant asked.

"As far as your life," the district attorney said.

Delbridge asked if the turning point in Mr. Davis' life was when he began to "hang with the Oates brothers" -- Jamie and Maleek Oates.

"When did you make the decision that you wanted to hang with the Oates brothers?" Delbridge asked.

"It just sort of happened. We were from the same neighborhood," the defendant responded.

Later, Davis would be asked about his repeated references to "the war," in correspondence with his friends.

The district attorney said that the basis of "the war," in which there were multiple attempts on the lives of people in that neighborhood, was about Maleek and Jamie Oates.

"That's what it's all about, is the Oateses. Which one of these was 'your boy?'" the assistant district attorney asked. "That you characterize was 'your boy?'"

"Maleek Oates," the defendant responded.

"This place you had on Slaughter Street, that was just a business, where you were selling drugs," the district attorney asked.

"That was my home," the defendant responded.

The district attorney called Davis' home a "drive through" where people could purchase crack cocaine, causing muffled snickering from some people in the rear of the courtroom.

"And the place that you got crack cocaine, and the place that you got the marijuana that you sold was from the Oates brothers," the district attorney said.

Hulse objected, and the judge sustained it.

"Did you say you're going to tell this jury the truth?" Delbridge said.

"I never got ... cocaine, and crack ... I never got drugs from the Oates brothers," Davis responded.

In a later cross examinations, Delbridge read from a letter that he said Davis Jr. had written to Jamie Oates while in prison.

"What's up, King Jamie," Delbridge said as he read the opening of the letter. "That's how you refer to him? As 'King Jamie?'"

Davis Jr. said calling him "king" was a joke.

Delbridge asked if the nickname did not have a more sinister implication.

"He wasn't the king in this little association?" the district attorney asked.

"No, sir, I'm not affiliated with a gang," Davis said.

"But you were affiliated with this loose association of neighbors, the Oates brothers being among them, right?"

Davis said yes.

The district attorney continued to read from the letter and implied that "the war" mentioned earlier had been about someone breaking into the Oates' house, stealing jewelry, drugs and money. Davis said he only knew of a chain being taken from one of the Oates' brothers homes.

Davis was expected to continue his testimony this morning in Wayne County Superior Court. Davis is charged with first-degree murder in each of the two deaths.