HED: Defense rests in Gates’ murder trial
Lede In: Defendant testifies he witnessed friend commit Patterson murder
By Jane Hill
OXFORD – Timothy Keith Gates testified Thursday that he witnessed friend and fellow burglar Johnny Hogue shoot Scott Patterson and Jason Gossett on Dec. 1, 1994.
Gates, 36, of Tula, is on trial for capital murder in Lafayette County Circuit Court. He is charged with murdering Patterson and wounding Gossett while trying to rob them.
The defense team introduced Hogue as an element in the events on the night of the shooting during previous testimony, but did not name him as a possible suspect until Thursday when Gates testified that he witnessed Hogue shoot the two boys and was threatened himself with violence by Hogue if he spoke of what he saw.
Special prosecutor Larry Little introduced rebuttal witnesses, including Hogue himself, but some doubt was cast on Hogue’s alibi on the night of the shooting in cross-examination conducted by defense attorney Joey Langston.
In direct testimony, Gates claimed he called Hogue to the scene after his truck overheated on Old Union Road near the intersection of Lafayette County Road 444, where a cabin owned by Patterson’s father was located. According to Gates, Hogue arrived with water for the radiator and then asked Gates what was up the road. When Gates told him, Hogue went up to the cabin carrying a beer and a flashlight.
According to Gates, he and Hogue had burglarized homes before to steal guns and knives, and he assumed Hogue intended to burglarize the cabin. When the two boys arrived in Patterson’s red Pontiac Sunbird, Gates said he witnessed Hogue shoot through the back window of the car and then shoot Gossett when he jumped from the car and tried to run.
In cross-examination, Gates said he witnessed Hogue beating at the driver’s side window with the stock of his shotgun trying to get into the vehicle to take Patterson’s wallet.
He also testified he was afraid Hogue would kill him if he spoke.
When asked why he confessed to the crime in the Lafayette County Detention Center, Gates testified he wanted help for alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms and was telling law enforcement officials “what they wanted to hear” in order to get that help.
The defense maintained Thursday that Gates was suffering withdrawal and other symptoms brought on by heavy beer drinking and mixing prescription drugs, including two different kinds of antidepressants, Valium, antibiotics, sleeping pills and flu medication.
Dr. Wood C. Hiatt, a forensic psychiatrist from Brandon, testified that, after reviewing Gates’ medical and mental health records and interviewing Gates, he was convinced Gates was suffering from alcohol withdrawal and was “in a fog” during the two days after his arrest, when he made three confessions to law enforcement officials.
Hiatt testified that because of Gates’ heavy drinking – up to a case of beer a day – and his mixing of prescribed and unprescribed medication that he probably had difficulty fully understanding what went on the night of the murder.
“It took him a while to figure out what happened,” Hiatt said. “It may very well of taken him not three days, but three months to put it together.”
The psychiatrist testified he did not consider Gates competent to understand his Miranda rights when they were read to him or to waive them.
Hiatt told the court Gates told him that he confessed to the murder in part because he thought Lafayette County Sheriff Buddy East would investigate further and discover he was innocent and that he would be safe in jail until that happened.
Final arguments today
After both the defense’s case and the state’s rebuttal ended, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Coleman excused the jury and both the prosecution and defense began working on jury instructions.
The case will resume at 8:30 a.m. today, when the jury will be given its instructions and hear final arguments before beginning deliberation.