Credibility of slain alleged witness to murder debated
A Jefferson Parish jury continued deliberations into the night Wednesday as its members tried to determine if two men and a woman are responsible for the slaying two years ago of a Bridge City man and a witness to his killing.
Prosecutors spent the last week trying to convince the jury of six men and six women that Chasity Griffin and Quentin McClure killed Theodore Pierce on Jan. 2, 2011. They also aimed to convince the jury that McClure’s half-brother, Jeffery Nelson, later killed Charles Smith, who had witnessed Pierce’s murder and had testified in the case.
Griffin, McClure and Nelson each are charged with second-degree murder, being a felon in possession of firearms and conspiracy to obstruct justice. McClure also faces a charge of intimidating, impeding, or injuring witnesses.
The jury retired to begin deliberations after listening to six hours of closing arguments on Wednesday.
Prosecutors argue that Smith was killed for trying to do “the right thing,” as his girlfriend described it, so his killers could go free. The defense, meanwhile, painted Smith as an unreliable source with a criminal past, who had a drinking habit and had given conflicting accounts of what he saw the afternoon Pierce was killed.
Jefferson Parish prosecutors Vince Paciera said McClure and Griffin asked Nelson to kill Smith to help them walk.
“They figured if they removed him from the face of the earth they could walk free,” Paciera said.
But Smith had already testified before a grand jury before he was killed. That testimony was used in court, something prosecutors hoped would bolster their case.
“He is here today,” Paciera told the jury in reference to Smith. “He did testify in this trial.”
The testimony apparently was playing a part in the jury’s deliberations since jurors asked Judge Henry Sullivan if they could have a copy of the transcript as they tried to reach a verdict. State law, however, prohibited that, Sullivan said.
Cameron Landry, who represented McClure, said Smith’s testimony to the grand jury and his statements to an assistant district attorney were inconsistent.
Landry said that raised questions about the reliability of his eyewitness account, especially since Smith was known to drink.
“I don’t know what else to say to make this witness more unreliable,” Landry told the jury during a closing argument that lasted nearly two hours.
“I don’t think he knew what he saw,” said David Alfortish, who represented Nelson.
The prosecution has argued that Smith was allegedly threatened because he agreed to cooperate with investigators and was nervous when he testified. Prosecutors said that led to a story that fluctuated between two or three gunmen who killed Pierce.
Assistant District Attorney Doug Freese told the jury that accusations of boozing and mentions of Smith’s previous arrests were a “combination of red herrings and ignoring the facts.”
“Charles Smith was a fallible and flawed human being who made any number of mistakes during his life,” Freese said. “... But he stood up and said ‘I saw what happened to my friend, and I saw the people who did it.’ ”