Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Desire Terrorist

A Chilling Trial: Part 2 -- The Defense Counters

After the feds rested their case, the defense began calling its stable of witnesses, starting with Pennington. The logic of calling the superintendent as a defense witness puzzled reporters and observers in the courtroom. Nothing Pennington said could have been interpreted as benefiting Davis. Davis and his attorneys had been claiming that he was independently carrying out his own drug investigation and Pennington admitted that there, indeed, had been some drug investigations going on without his knowledge. However, he quickly added that all such investigations by street-level officers had to be cleared by a supervisor ahead of time. Davis had no such clearance, the superintendent emphasized.

In further attempting to create reasonable doubt, the defense, through its witnesses, tried to cloud the issue over what was on the FBI and 911 tapes which recorded varying descriptions of the vehicle that fled the crime scene after Groves' murder. The getaway car was originally described as being "champagne colored" but later descriptions had it as "blue." Also at issue was the fact that the original 911 tapes no longer existed. They had been inadvertently erased and taped over because there was reportedly a tape shortage in the department. Defense attorneys claimed that these tapes would have exonerated their clients.

Steve Jackson's attorney was called to testify on details of the plea bargaining deal that kept his client from being named a co-defendant. Groves' boyfriend, Sylvester "Jimmy" Jones, testified that the two of them had fought on a number of occasions during their four-year relationship and that at least one of those fights landed Groves in the hospital. Jones also acknowledged three felony convictions, all of them in 1984, but he denied killing Groves.

Two other defense witnesses included Roland Smith and Lorraine Ford, an unmarried couple who lived together in Groves' neighborhood and who knew both Groves and Jones. Smith recounted a number of violent fights between Groves and Jones and told the court he was about two blocks away when Groves was shot. He said he saw the murderer run toward a nearby waiting vehicle but was unable to describe the assailant in the dark.

Ford, who was closer to the scene, described the perpetrator as a black male who fit Jones's description. Her description was corroborated by two NOPD detectives who took down Ford's statement shortly after the murder. One of the detectives testified that Ford told him Groves and Jones had had an argument earlier that day and that she heard Groves cry out a name that sounded like "Jimmy" as she was shot.

The defense also called in its own ballistics expert to refute the government's contention that they had the actual murder weapon in their possession. Testimony from defense witnesses from the FBI and NOPD's IAD appeared to further obfuscate the issue of the tapes. Another defense witness, NOPD Lieutenant Bruce Adams, told the court that there had been two covert narcotics investigations during and immediately after the time of the Groves murder -- "Rock-a-bye One" and "Rock-a-bye Two." But, under government cross-examination, Adams admitted that Davis was not a part of either investigation. When asked why, Adams replied, "His reputation, mainly."

Also called as defense witnesses were a number of friends of the defendants and the girlfriends of Hardy and Causey. Hardy's girlfriend, Toni Van Buren, said he had been with her and their three young daughters earlier on the evening of October 13 at an apartment they shared in New Orleans East. At approximately, 10:45 p.m., on a phone call, she said she heard Hardy say, "I'm on my way," but she didn't know where he was going.

Causey's girlfriend, Javonda Massey, said the two of them had been eating a late dinner at a Denny's restaurant miles from the crime scene at the time of the Groves murder. Under cross-examination, she was asked by Georges what she had been doing on the night of November 13, 1994, and one or two other subsequent dates and Massey said she couldn't remember. "So what made October 13 so special that you would remember?" he countered. Massey replied that that was the date Causey got his state identification card.

A private investigator hired by the defense also testified as to the amount of time it would have taken Hardy to get from where he was that night to the scene of the crime. Following the most direct route and driving at the speed limit, the P.I. clocked his time as longer than that taken by the prosecution's witness. However, there was a discrepancy between which of two locations Hardy might have started his journey from.

Though the U.S. Attorney's Office salivated at the prospect of grilling any or all of the three defendants under oath, none of them elected to take the stand in their own defense. According to an article in the April 21 Times-Picayune, Doskey was hinting that Davis might testify. "He really wants to tell his side of the story," Doskey said, but apparently Davis was dissuaded from doing so.

After the defense rested, it appealed to Berrigan for a mistrial but the request was denied. Both sides began closing arguments to the jury on Monday, April 22.

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