Witness says fatal shooting about snitching was planned
The survivor of a deadly shooting described for a jury Tuesday how two Victoria men planned to snuff out a supposed snitch.
Allaceia Stephney, 25, testified in the capital murder trial of Donnell Deshaun Dilworth Jr., 23, and Dedrick Roy Bonner, 19.
The two are charged with shooting Jerry Paul James, a 37-year-old father who worked parttime at a pizza restaurant, in the head with a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol April 24, 2012, at the Regency Studio Apartments complex.
Dilworth lured James a little after 1:30 p.m. into a small courtyard near John Stockbauer Drive for a fist fight about their status in the Bloods gang, but seconds later, Dilworth moved out of the way for Bonner to intervene, she said.
"It was like he (Dilworth) knew what was up," Stephney said. "To me, it appeared contrived."
Then, Bonner, who lived at the complex, reached inside of his red shorts to get the gun, cocked it and pulled the trigger, once on James, then on her, she said.
"I looked at Dedrick and said, 'Why?'" Stephney said, adding she heard eight shots in all.
Prosecutors think they know the answer to that question.
"It all begins with a misapprehension. ... Simple as that," Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler said during opening statements.
Bonner and Dilworth thought James told police that they had previously robbed a neighbor's apartment. James' downfall would be that he appeared too friendly with police when they stopped by to investigate burglaries related to the robbery, Tyler said.
Bonner's attorney, Jerry Clark, meanwhile, reported a different version of events.
James, with a knife in each hand, lunged at the defendants, while Stephney stood a few feet away, also armed, he said.
"Yes, unequivocally, my client shot Mr. James," Clark said. "I intend to prove to you that it was in fact self-defense."
Bonner cannot claim self defense if he provoked the argument and then came armed. Plus, he could not possess a gun because he was on probation, Tyler said.
The line of questioning from Clark and Dilworth's attorney, Lee Lewis, also suggested James may have been under the influence of cocaine and acting erratically at the time of the shooting.
Throughout the day, they both tried to discredit Stephney by pointing out to jurors discrepancies in her statements to police along with her marijuana use and reputation for violence.
She maintained, though, that she was not high on marijuana when the shooting occurred. She also never saw James use cocaine during their five-year relationship.
Attorneys also argued not only about whether the knives were in James' hands but also how threatening, or rather sharp, they were.
Tyler described them as flatware and no match for a firearm. To demonstrate this assertion, he struck the knives repeatedly against the palm of his hand, which was covered with a thin, plastic glove so as not to contaminate the evidence.
"I'm not bleeding yet, right?" He asked Stephney.
"Correct," she said.
Clark then put on a similar demonstration. With a force he said someone would likely use in a situation like the one between the defendants and James, he poked holes in a box with the knives.
The state also called James' mother, Rebecca James; Travis Aaron Hanson, a former Victoria police officer; Emilio Reyes, a local emergency medical technician; and the former Moulton Police Chief Mark Zimmerman.
Zimmerman, who is now a Fayette County sheriff's deputy, visited the apartment complex prior to the shooting to investigate some burglaries. But when shown a photo of James, he could not remember whether James ever spoke with him.
Reyes testified Stephney, who now lives in Oregon, implicated Bonner and Dilworth in the April 24, 2012, shooting as she was being treated for a gunshot wound to her lower left leg.
During the afternoon, Judge Robert C. Cheshire asked bailiffs to collect all audience members' cellphones after Tyler accused some of sending text messages during 10-minute comfort breaks and making threatening gestures toward the state's witnesses.
Bailiffs also restricted some access to the courtroom after so many people opened and closed doors that it became distracting.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Defense attorneys are scheduled to continue cross-examining Stephney.
The trial will likely last all week, said Eli Garza, the first assistant criminal district attorney.
Capital murder is a capital felony. The state is not seeking the death penalty.
The two are also charged with aggravated assault in the shooting of Stephney, which in this case is a first-degree felony.