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Man claims self-defense in murder trial

By Jessica Priest
April 9, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.
Updated April 8, 2013 at 11:09 p.m.


A jury could decide this week whether a Victoria man fatally shot an uninvited house guest in self-defense or in cold blood.

Testimony began Tuesday in the trial of 38-year-old Grady Dwayne Duncan.

Duncan, an oil-field worker, is charged with shooting a man named Forrest Marks in the abdomen with a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun about 10:30 p.m. May 21, 2011.

In opening statements, Eli Garza, first assistant criminal district attorney, said Marks was at the house in the 7400 block of San Antonio River Road to drink beer and possibly talk about his marital problems.

Garza said the man believed to be having an affair with Marks' wife is Duncan's brother-in-law.

"That's what brought him to Duncan's house," Garza said about how Marks arrived early in the afternoon. "Bullets are like memories. Some whiz past you, and others tear into your flesh. Forrest Marks experienced both. ... A bullet tore into an artery near his spine."

He told jurors that while they would hear from various witnesses that Marks had a troubled past, he had little to protect himself as Duncan first fired a warning shot into the ground and then delivered the fatal bullet.

"His (Marks') weapons of choice were $39, a can of tobacco and a marijuana pipe," Garza said.

Defense attorney George Filley, meanwhile, urged the jury to concentrate on the evidence, which he said would show that Marks was known to carry a weapon and had made threats in the past.

"He (Marks) said that he would kill not only her (his wife), but anyone who assisted her in leaving him," Filley said.

Filley said one of the most important decisions the group will make in the case is whether deadly force was warranted.

"Did he bring about the death of Forrest Marks? Absolutely," Filley said.

Filley said the Duncan and Marks families knew each other because they attended Coleto Baptist Church.

Volunteer firefighter Paul Johnson was the first to arrive at the scene and the first to testify.

"He (Duncan) had his hands up and said, 'I'm the one who shot him,'" Johnson said, describing how the defendant drove to the rural property's gate in a gray Toyota pickup to meet him and then stored the weapon in its center console.

Johnson said he patted Duncan down and took away his car keys for his own safety before proceeding to the house to perform CPR on Marks, who already had dilated pupils and no pulse.

"As I did the compressions, the pool of blood (on Marks' T-shirt) got bigger and bigger," he said, adding that witnesses 20 to 30 feet away did little to help and radio traffic was spotty.

Victoria County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Valdez testified next.

Then, jurors watched dashboard camera video and heard a 911 call, the latter of which detailed how dispatchers repeatedly asked for the name of the victim, to which Duncan responded that he did not know.

Valdez said his VHS video recording, which was converted to DVD format at the district attorney's office, showed Duncan giving him the same story. He said, although the video was distorted at some points, Duncan appeared to have been drinking. He remembered Duncan having red or bloodshot eyes and alcohol on his breath.

Filley's line of questioning suggested Duncan's Cajun accent may have been misconstrued.

"Do you think Mr. Duncan might have also been in the midst of a traumatizing event and very emotionally overwrought?" he asked.

Filley also got Valdez to agree that the investigation's tone changed when detectives arrived at the scene and began ordering deputies not to touch the gun using curse words.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday with Judge Robert C. Cheshire presiding. The state is expected to call witnesses to the shooting.

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