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DeKalb man's trial begins in Newton court

COVINGTON -- The trial of one of the three codefendants accused of killing and burning the body of an Atlanta man in Newton County began Tuesday.

Jordan Michael Coleman, 22, of DeKalb County is charged with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, two counts of second degree arson, concealing the death of another and three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

He and codefendants Brandon Hambrick, also of DeKalb County, and Candice Cadasha Pope, of Palmetto, who entered a guilty plea in April 2012 on the third day of her trial, are charged in the death of 44-year-old Alvin Hall of Atlanta.

Hall's burned body and vehicle were found on a dirt and gravel trail in an abandoned part of a subdivision near McGiboney Lane in Newton County near the Rockdale County line in late December 2009.

Prosecutors have said that the three developed a plan to rob Hall after he loaned Pope money earlier in the month. They allegedly attempted to rob him by luring him to an Atlanta bar and rushing his car, but found no money since he hadn't been paid yet for the week. Instead, they allegedly pushed him into the trunk of his own car and drove around to decide what to do with him.

The other two codefendants, who are first cousins, say that Coleman shot Hall when he later tried to break free and then stuffed him in the trunk of his car, doused him with gasoline and lit the vehicle on fire.

"It was a recipe for tragedy and death," said Assistant District Attorney Randy McGinley during opening statements Tuesday.

McGinley said jurors are expected to hear from a 911 caller who lived in a house that backed up to the abandoned trail. She heard a few loud bangs and then about 30 minutes later saw the vehicle on fire, leading her and her husband to call 911.

The state also will call a witness who is expected to testify that Coleman confessed to her, and the state will call on another person who allegedly dropped Pope off at the bar, where she saw the other two defendants as well.

The other two defendants also are expected to testify against Coleman. The state has granted Hambrick derivative use of immunity, meaning that what he says on the stand cannot be used against him at his own trial, in which he is facing the same charges, according to attorneys.

Jurors also are expected to see photos from the crime scene, as well as cell phone records, which will show that the last person Hall received a call from was Pope, who eventually led authorities to the other two defendants. The state has evidence from calls and cell phone tower locations that place the three together and in Newton County.

The jurors also will have to determine the venue of the incident. Hambrick has told authorities that Coleman shot Hall in Newton County beside his car that was later burned, but he previously told them that he shot him in Scottdale in DeKalb County. Other witnesses also have said that Hall was shot in Scottdale, according to what Coleman told them.

Defense attorney Charles Barrow said Tuesday that evidence will show that the shooting occurred in Scottdale and that Coleman did not do it.

"You're not going to see any physical evidence against Mr. Coleman," Barrow told jurors during his opening statements.

He said there are no fingerprints and no murder weapon, and there also isn't any video footage of Coleman using Hall's credit cards in the days following his death, like there is of the other two defendants.

He said Hambrick's changing testimony also will not prove Coleman's guilt.

"He points his finger at Jordan Coleman in every single opportunity," Barrow said.

He added that Hambrick and Pope are close, having once lived together and that they ran a credit card scheme together. One of the witnesses who is expected to testify against Coleman, saying he confessed to her, is another cousin of theirs.

"Keep these relationships in mind and see that Mr. Coleman is kind of the outsider," Barrow said.

Only 12 jurors are serving on the trial, instead of the normal 12 plus one alternate. Judge Eugene Benton dismissed one juror who was experiencing a medical problem before the trial began Tuesday.

The trial is expected to continue until Thursday or Friday.