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Jury convicts two men in fatal shooting

By Sonny Long
Aug. 15, 2013 at 3:15 a.m.

Dedrick Bonner, left, attorneys Jerry Clark and Lee Lewis, and Donnell Dilworth await the jury's verdict during their capital murder trial Thursday.

A Victoria County jury on Thursday convicted Dedrick Bonner of capital murder in the shooting death of Jerry Paul James on April 24, 2012, at Regency Studio Apartments.

Co-defendant Donnell Dilworth was found guilty of the lesser included charge of murder.

The jury deliberated for more than five hours before returning the unanimous verdict.

Bonner also was convicted of first-degree aggravated assault for shooting and wounding Allaceia Stephney in the same incident.

Dilworth was found not guilty of aggravated assault.

Capital murder carries an automatic life sentence while the jury will decide the punishment on the other convictions beginning at 9 a.m. Friday.

Before the jury began deliberations, attorneys for the state and the defense presented closing arguments.

First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Eli Garza told the jury that "the culture of Regency Apartments is not to talk to the police, not to call the police because snitches get stitches."

Testimony during the trial revealed that the defendants believed James had talked to police about an unreported robbery they committed.

Garza also said that James had called Bonner and Dilworth "fake" gangsters.

"But he was wrong," said Garza. "Dead wrong.

"In a nutshell, snitches do get stitches, and they do end up in ditches. Jerry Paul James is in a grave."

Bonner's attorney, Jerry Clark, reminded jurors that the charges had to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

"If you have a single reasonable doubt that equals not guilty, pure and simple," he said. "In capital murder, you have to be so certain, you are willing to send these young men to prison without the possibility of parole."

Clark also reminded jurors about the knives James had during the confrontation with Bonner and Dilworth.

"You know my client was defending himself," Clark said. "This would not have happened if he was not charged with knives, if he was not about to be killed."

The court had ruled that self-defense could not be considered by the jury.

Clark said the snitching issue had been settled, and the men did not go to James' apartment seeking retaliation because he was a potential witness.

"Vote with your conscience, your heart and let your governing moral compass dictate what you do," he concluded.

Dilworth's attorney, Lee Lewis, in his closing argument, said the state failed to prove its case.

"A mutually agreed upon fight is a long way from capital murder," said Lewis.

Lewis admitted his client makes poor decisions and hangs out with bad people.

"April 24 took a tragic turn when weapons were brought into the situation," Lewis said. "Two knives changed the course of events."

Lewis said there were "too many oversights" in the investigation, including by the crime scene investigators, the destroyed 911 tapes and not fingerprinting a knife while the prints were fresh.

"Their whole case is based on guesswork and assumptions."

Lewis also reminded the jury that Dilworth was not armed.

"Donnell Dilworth can not and should not be held accountable for something he had no control over," Lewis said. "He had no options on how things played out."

Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler had the last word, saying the defense was looking at the case through "rose-colored glasses."

Tyler said Bonner and Dilworth were "predators, beasts of the jungle, the gangsters that ran Regency."

He encouraged the jury to make a decision based on the evidence and the law provided to them.

"Go where the evidence takes you, not the imagination of the defense counsel."

After the verdict, Tyler said the message the jury sent was clear.

"We take great effort to make sure our citizens are protected by the law," Tyler said. "If you live in any neighborhood in this jurisdiction, we mean to give you the protection of this state's laws. Even if it's a poor neighborhood or from a poor family.

"We will extend great effort to make sure you are protected by the law. For members of the criminal street gangs, we are not afraid. The jurors are not afraid, and we will not tolerate this.

"Every neighborhood is a neighborhood where laws are enforced. I don't care if you believe it to be your turf, it is not. It is law enforcement's turf, and we will come and get you."

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