03/22/09 — Murder trial resumes Monday

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Murder trial resumes Monday

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 22, 2009 2:00 AM

A jury will return to Wayne County Superior Court Monday to continue to hear evidence in the case of a double murder.

Roderick Miles Davis Jr., 25, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the deaths of James Lee Croom and Trasond Javoy "T.J." Gerald in August, 2006. He said he fired a gun at the car in which they were sitting, but only in self-defense.

The prosecution is not seeking the death penalty.

Testimony Friday centered on what some have described was a gang war and defense attorney Geoff Hulse tried to portray Davis as a man who was in fear for his life.

Prosecutor Matt Delbridge has attempted to paint Davis as being mixed up in drugs and violence.

An SBI lab technician, Elizabeth Patel, testified Friday that tests to determine whether the victim Croom, who allegedly fired four shots at Davis, had gunpowder residue on his hands were inconclusive. Gunshot residue was found on the car's doors, she said.

Also testifying Friday was jailer Warren Baker, a sergeant in the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

Baker said he was involved in several conversations with Davis during his stay in jail and took notes.

He testified under questioning by Delbridge that he did not instigate the conversations and that Davis simply started talking about the incident.

"He said he was not in a gang, but he knows that those people that were coming around were. He said he would do what he had to do to protect his family, so he got the gun and he took them out. He said, 'Baker, I could not let them hound me like that.

'I guess the car was coming around, was because I took out that O.G.,'" Baker said, reading his written documentation of the conversation.

"What does O.G. mean?" asked the assistant district attorney.

"That's a term that's defined as an 'original gangster,'" Baker replied.

Hulse asked Baker if Davis had said he felt justified in firing at his alleged assailants.

"And this conversation, he told you it was self defense, correct?" Hulse asked.

"Yes sir," Baker said.

Another witness who testified Friday was Sgt. Theresa Cox of the police department, who collected evidence at the scene. She is Davis' aunt.

Cox testified that she tried to get another officer to collect the evidence once she learned her nephew was involved but that the officer was not available and that she was instructed by her supervisor to proceed with her job. She collected a .140 caliber bullet and two SKS rounds from a neighbor's yard.

She testified that police were aware of the potential for violence involving the parties because of a shooting that took place shortly before the deaths of Croom and Gerald.

Hulse re-entered a motion to dismiss the case but Judge Paul Gessner said enough evidence exists to present to jurors. The judge said he and the two lawyers would work together to decide what charges would be presented to the jury.