Attorneys ask why evidence in murder trial went untested
Officials tested a knife found at a 2012 homicide for fingerprints - five days into the trial of two Victoria men charged with a shooting death.
But Maria Perez, a Victoria Police Department crime scene technician, could not find a print with enough ridge detail Monday to identify who held the knife the afternoon of April 24, 2012.
That's when prosecutors charge Donnell Deshaun Dilworth Jr., 23, and Dedrick Roy Bonner, 19, fatally shot Jerry Paul James, a man they believed snitched to police about a robbery they committed about a week before.
Prosecutors also maintain the duo turned a gun on James' fiance, Allaceia Stephney, 26, at the Regency Studio Apartment complex in Victoria, severely injuring her lower left leg.
The state rested Monday, but the trial stalled when a defense witness, who had been subpoenaed, did not show up. Judge Robert C. Cheshire signed a writ of attachment for his arrest.
Defense attorneys spent most of Monday morning grilling lead detective Jeffrey Lehnert about why he did not test the knife, the third found, for fingerprints nor test the bullet extracted from James' head for barrel markings.
The gun believed to be used in the shooting was a .45-caliber, semi-automatic pistol found a day later near the intersection of Stayton and Nelson streets in Victoria.
Lehnert admitted testing the knife would have been helpful but said it was an oversight.
He added that he looked at a photograph of the bullet from James' head, the fifth bullet found, and relied upon his seven years of law enforcement experience as well as an hourlong ballistics course to decide not to send it to be tested by a Department of Public Safety lab in Austin.
The bullet appeared mangled, he said.
Jerry Clark, who represents Bonner, called the two decisions "major oversights."
"Ever heard of the phrase better safe than sorry?" Lee Lewis, who represents Dilworth, asked Lehnert.
Stephney testified last week she saw Dilworth holding something shiny but could not tell whether it was a knife or a watch.
Emergency medical technicians took two kitchen knives from James' hands. A third kitchen knife belonging to the same set was found in the complex's grassy courtyard, about 4 feet from Stephney's cellphone back.
Clark said in opening statements that these facts would lead one to believe that James and Stephney, who were known to fight and use drugs, were the aggressors. Bonner defended himself, he said.
Lehnert said during questioning from Stephen Tyler, the criminal district attorney, that Stephney was found more than 18 feet away from the knife in a pool of her own blood.
"It (the knife) also belonged in her (Stephney's) home, so it could have come at a different time," Lehnert said.
The state also called Justin Brown, the man prosecutors believe Dilworth and Bonner beat and robbed of stolen guns about a week prior to the shooting.
Dilworth and Bonner invited themselves over and punched and stomped on him after bargaining over the price of a stolen Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolver went bad, Brown said.
Neighbors watched as he turned over all three stolen guns - none of which was the one used in the homicide - to them, said Brown, who is in jail on a probation violation.
Bonner and Dilworth also face an aggravated assault charge for the shooting of Stephney, which in this case is a first-degree felony.
If found guilty of capital murder, they will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The trial recessed until 9 a.m. Wednesday because Cheshire has a court docket Tuesday that was set prior to the trial.