Thursday, September 13, 2012
Jury finds Howell guilty of manslaughter
By SUE WATSON
After seven and a half hours of deliberation, a Marshall County jury found Denorris Howell guilty of manslaughter in the July 2010 shooting death of LaKeith Jones.
The maximum sentence he can receive for manslaughter is 20 years imprisonment, according to the assistant District Attorney Christine Tatum.
Judge Robert Elliott said the sentencing of Howell would take place within the next two months.
The mother of the shooting victim, Pearly Jones, said she is satisfied with the verdict by the all-male jury of three blacks and nine whites.
“A murder verdict would have been justice, but we can live with manslaughter,” she said after Howell was turned over to the custody of Marshall County sheriff’s deputies.
Maj. Kelly McMillen, the lead investigator in the case for the county, thanked the jury for the verdict.
“Considering the facts and getting a verdict, we would have been happier with a murder verdict but we can accept a verdict of manslaughter,” he said.
Defense attorney David Hill argued that his client, Denorris Howell, shot the victim, LaKeith “Ke Ke” Jones, 33, of 103 Newlin Lane, Holly Springs, in the carport of Howell’s home on Old Highway 7 South, in self-defense. Howell, who was 27 at the time of the incident, did not take the stand to testify in his defense.
Autopsy findings showed Jones was struck twice in the torso and three times in the limbs during the incident, according to a state medical examiner Dr. Feng Li. One of the shots struck the torso in the victim’s back and the other entered the front side, struck the spinal column area and exited in the back, he said in testimony before the jury.
State toxicology investigations showed the deceased had cocaine and its metabolites and marijuana and its metabolites in the body tissues at the time of death, Li said.
Investigators testified the incident evolved following an argument over car keys when the victim went to Howell’s home to make a payment and pick up the keys to the vehicle he owed money on.
State crime scene investigators tried to prove that Howell had lured the victim to his house, knew the victim well, and that there were hundreds of cell phone calls between Jones and Howell over a period of time.
Pearly Jones, the mother of the deceased, testified on behalf of the prosecution. She stated her son asked to borrow her vehicle to go make a $100 payment and pick up the keys from Howell the day he died in the carport of Howell’s residence south of Waterford. He asked that the $100 be taken out of the food money that was going to be used to purchase groceries, she said.
The state called an array of witnesses, including the two men with Jones the day he was killed, two men who were already at Howell’s residence at the time of the shooting, and a number of investigators.
The defense called two witnesses – Alexis Malone, a niece of Angelia Marion (Howell’s wife) who was 14 or 15 years old and present in the Howell home the day Jones was shot, and Lorine Marion, Howell’s mother-in-law.
The state’s case rested mainly on a phone call between the cell phones of the defendant and the victim minutes before the shooting occurred, according to McMillen.
Also, the state presented evidence of inconsistent statements from Howell regarding what the victim said and whether he thought the victim was armed.
No gun was found that could be connected with the victim, he said.
“Howell stated in interviews with law officers he had been robbed many times by the victim, but that assertion could not be backed up with incident reports to law enforcement,” McMillen said.
The defendant admitted he had shot the victim but claimed self-defense, he said.
The four-day trial was concluded at just after 7:15 Tuesday night.
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