COVINGTON - Opening arguments and testimony got under way Tuesday in the case against three men accused in the slaying of Rufus Tony Richardson.
The defendants, Christopher Jarrell Rozier, 20, Xavier Damone Dyer, 19, and his cousin, Willie Dyer, 18, are each facing charges of murder and aggravated assault in connection with Richardson's death.
The body of Richardson, 55, was found on the side of a dirt road near Ga. Highway 162 last January. He had been shot six times, including twice in the face.
In her opening statement to the jury, Assistant District Melanie McCrorey said that Richardson's killing was a case of "cold-blooded murder," and that when all the evidence had been presented, all of the pieces of the puzzle would fit together to show that the defendants were responsible for his death.
"What this case will come down to is a drug hit," McCrorey told the jury. "They thought he was snitching and wanted to teach him a lesson. In the end, you will have a picture that these three men killed Tony Richardson in cold blood."
Assistant Public Defender Teri Smith, who is representing Willie Dyer in the case, asked the jury to keep a list of the facts presented in the evidence that pertained to her client.
"A lot of this evidence is not going to pertain to Willie," she said. "The state will not be able to carry its burden against Willie Dyer.
Rozier's attorney, Andre Sailers, told the jury that they were not going to see any physical evidence or eyewitness testimony that would tie his client to the murder scene and said that the case is full of reasonable doubt.
"He's been charged because of circumstantial evidence," he said in his opening remarks to the jury.
Sailers also called into question the testimony the jury would hear from one of the prosecutor's witnesses, Liberty Harris, 38, who is an alleged co-conspirator in the case. Sailers also called her a "crackhead."
Harris' testimony was granted immunity by Judge Horace Johnson Jr. in the case, meaning that what she testified to against the three defendants could not be used against her at her own trial. She still stands charged with murder and aggravated assault in connection with Richardson's death.
"Christopher Rozier is not guilty simply because everything out of the mouth of a liar is doubtful," Sailers told the jury. "Chris is not a violent person. He would never do anything like this. If you want to convict my client on the testimony of a crackhead ... that's all (the prosecution has) got."
Xavier Dyer's attorney, Lee Sexton, echoed Sailers sentiments and said that people who smoke crack cocaine sometimes see things or make things up.
"You'll find there's no evidence linking Xavier Dyer to any of this," he told the jury," "You're going to have to believe the crackhead before you can convict Xavier Dyer."
Harris, who also testified on Tuesday, admitted to having a conversation with Rozier, also known as "Big Boy," and Xavier Dyer, also known as "Pretty Boy," in the living room of her residence in which she called the victim a "snitch."
She admitted that she came up with the idea of killing the victim by giving him crack cocaine laced with rat poison and that Willie Dyer was present when that conversation took place.
She testified that later Rozier told her that he and Xavier Dyer had shot Richardson and Xavier Dyer asked her "if she wanted to see a dead body."
During cross-examination, Harris admitted that she had lied to authorities on previous occasions and remarked that some of her statement she gave to authorities at the time of the incident was true and that some of her testimony that she gave on Tuesday was true.
Harris also made a contradiction in her testimony when she testified that a hat that had previously been shown to her by the prosecutor she identified as being one that Richardson wore was actually not. She also said that she didn't know whether Willie Dyer knew anything about the conversation to kill Richardson.
Harris' niece, Erica Brookin, testified that Rozier and Xavier Dyer had previously threatened her and a male acquaintance by taking them down the same dirt road where Richardson's body was found, telling them they "weren't to be played with." She said the two defendants were holding guns at the time.
"They had us shook up," she told the court.
She later admitted, however, that neither defendant actually pointed a gun at them.
The court also heard testimony from several other witnesses on Tuesday. Dean Quamina, who owns a body shop on Ga. 162 near the residence of Harris, which is where the plot to kill Richardson was allegedly hatched, testified that the victim sometimes cleaned up around his shop and had asked him for money on the day he was killed.
During cross-examination, Quamina said that he didn't know any of the defendants and that there were many people who were mad at the Richardson and may have reason to do him harm.
Larry Barr, who lived with Harris at her residence, told the court that she made the comment at one point on the day in question that Richardson was interfering in her business and that he asked the victim to step outside.
At one point during his testimony Barr said that he couldn't remember if he saw Richardson leave the residence with Rozier and Xavier Dyer. During cross-examination, however, Barr admitted that he had changed his story about the last time he saw the victim and also to being a heavy drinker.
As of press time Tuesday, testimony was still being heard in the case.
Joel Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org