UPDATE: 2 pre-autopsy photos out, judge rules, after first day in Lee County double-murder trial

By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

* NOTE: Continue to watch djournal.com or Twitter @REALNEWSQUEEN for regular courtroom updates today.

4:45 P.M. POST

By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Defense attorneys convinced their trial judge to strike two photos of the bodies of shooting victims as they arrived for autopsy after their Oct. 28, 2011 deaths.

The Lee County Circuit Court trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Lee County Justice Center.

Travon Brown, a 28-year-old black man, stands indicted on two murder charges in the 2011 shooting deaths of Cornelius “Snoop” Harris and Felicia Ruffin. He insists it was self-defense.

Prosecutors are District Attorney Trent Kelly, assistant DAs Brian Neely and John Weddle. Defense attorneys are Shane McLaughlin and Adam Pinkard.

(Below is a running account of courtroom action. Please excuse the typos and other glitches likely as I type rapidly. Read live updates on Twitter @REALNEWSQUEEN)

• • •

4:03 – Judge back. McLaughlin says he has some issues with some photos in case before they go to the jury. Kelly says he’d like the record to reflect who struck which potential jurors. JURORS RETURN 4:06.

NEELY CALLS CAPT. RUSTY HAYNES

HAYNES – (Neely questioning) With TPD. Shift captain that night. Now, captain of special ops. Worked for TPD many years. (Call on Sept. 28, 2011 to go to 1108 Chapman Dr.?) Yes. Tupelo, Lee County MS. (Did you ahve opportunity to view two bodies at scene?) Initially, saw one. Then on entry, saw second. At that time didn’t know who they were. Now, Cornelius Harris and Felicia Ruffin. They were human beings. (Time did you get call?) Slightly before midnight. (Shows him dispatch log, 911) Time got call, says 23:42 … or 11:42 p.m. (When got the call, what did you do?) I made my way to Chapman. Me, Parker, Foreman. (What time arrive?) 23:44… two minutes after call. (What did you do?) Parker approached front door. Foreman and myself stepped on porch. Large picture window on porch with curtain. Saw body on floor in fairly large pool. Parker kicked the door in. We reviewed initial area. Saw Ms. Ruffin on couch. Copious blood on floor. Checked kitchen to see if anyone else there. (Did you have to walk through blood?) Yes, all four of us.

(Now, what did you do?) Checked rest of residence for other people. Foreman and Parker checked next room up. We got to bathroom. Door shut. I opened door with Mansell behind me. Saw subject lying in bathtub. (Look at this photo. What is it?) Cornelius on the floor, Felicia on the couch. This is bathroom… bathtub we encountered. (Admit into evidence – Def no objection).

I ordered subject out of the bathtub at gunpoint. Got him out. Believe Foreman handcuffed him. (Say anything?) Not to me. To Mansell, like it’s over and claimed responsibility for the gun in the tub. Handcuffed him. Brought him into living room. (Opportunity to check to see if entire house was clear?) Yes, checked everything before ran into Brown. (Shows him another photo. What is that?) Appears to be living room as door exits to rest of residence. How it looked … very consistent with how I remember it. (Look at TV?) To best of my recollection. (X-Box?) Appears some type of game on top of TV.

(What is this?) Bedroom to residence. (Points to this?) A game system. (Plugged?) Doesn’t appear to be. Not in living room. (Look at photo in living room?) Can’t tell you what it is. Doesn’t resemble an X-Box. (Another photo?) Back door. Deadbolt lock. Inspected it. When approached back door, it was locked. Not type that locks behind you. (Windows?) Not broken. (Anyone else left scene?) No indication. (Satisfied everyone at scene?) Yes. We opened the door and checked the back yard. No tracks. Canine search revealed no others outside. (Tender photos into evidence – Def no objection)

Notified ME and medical examiner to come to scene. Ambulance took Brown to Medical Center with a wound. Asked ME to bring EKG machine to put paddles on victims to ensure they were deceased. They did and rendered aid to Mr. Brown. (EMT vehicle?) EMT helped him to gurney. Think I saw them take him. (Remember anything?) He had a fainting spell. Collapsed in area near front door. (Shows him photos? There?) Toward the open area. (He fell out in the floor?) He had some kind of spell.

(Wrapup?) Brown to hospital. Maintained scene until CID arrived. (Once you went to the bathroom and got Brown. Is he in courtroom?) He doesn’t look quite the same but I believe that’s him in the courtroom … [he points to defense table]. 4:26

PINKARD TO QUESTION HAYNES

(Pinkard – At scene?) To make sure no further loss of life, render aid. Then secure the scene. (Did you observe the bullet holes in the house?) As … I’m sure we saw one or two of them. Not paramount in my mind. (Can you remember any?) No sir. (As you came upon Brown, what acting?) Had jacket behind him, reclined with beer between his legs. Pistol near feet. (How did he respond to you?) Did exactly what I asked him to do. (What about his injury?) I didn’t consider it life-threatening. Was painful. (In house, se any drugs or paraphernalia?) No sir. (In tub was he intoxicated?) No sir. 4:29

KELLY ASKS TO APPROACH BENCH AND TALK TO JUDGE 4:30 / JUDGE SENDS JURY HOME UNTIL 9 A.M. TUESDAY

JUDGE asks defense about issues.

MCLAUGHLIN – Two photos that have no probative value. (He goes to evidence table to get them.) We say they are gruesome. Not relevant. If any, it vastly outweighs undue prejudice. Asks to exclude them.

JUDGE – Identified as 25 and 32.

WEDDLE – They are similar in sense they are photos once bodies arrived for autopsy. In no way intended to try to elicit anything from jury. Simply taken for pathologist for ID putposes to state they are the people who did the autopsy on. No more gruesome than other photos at crime scene. Theses show that this is state each body arrived for purposes of the autopsy.

MCLAUGHLIN – Sate they arrived in is not a relevant information. Eveyrbody agrees they were Harris and Ruffin. No dispute. Doesn’t matter wht their condition. They were transported in body bags.

JUDGE – I am going to exclude these except to show pathologist. WEDDLE – We withdraw them.

KELLY – Would like to go on …. JUDGE – AH, yes.

KELLY – Can go through whole process. Tell me if I get it wrong. (He goes through jurors tendered and struck until selection of 14).

JUDGE – LET’S get better system of getting witnesses in here. Recess until 9 a.m.

• • •

EARLIER POST

TUPELO – Jurors began to hear testimony and see photographs from the Tupelo scene where a man and a woman were fatally shot in 2011.

Testifying in the state’s case were an E911 dispatcher and a Tupelo police sergeant who supervised the shift, which answered the call about the shooting.

TPD Sgt. Douglas Mansell also told the jury he found defendent Travon Brown in the 1008 Chapman Dr. home’s bathtub with a pistol and a beer.

The trial began this morning with jury selection, It’s likely to go for several days.

If convicted, Brown faces up to life in prison. He insists it’s a case of self-defense.

About 2:10, the 14-member jury was named from a pool of 79 registered voters. Two of the white women are alternates.

The jury consists of 10 women and four men, one of each sex is black.

Brown, 28-year-old black man, is charged with a double murder in 2011.
• • •

Below is a running account of Monday afternoon’s proceedings before Judge Thomas Gardner.

The state is represented by District Attorney Trent Kelly, assistant DAs Brian Neely and John Weddle. Defense attorneys are Adam Pinkard and Shane McLaughlin of Tupelo.

(Please excuse the typos and glitches likely as I type rapidly.)

2:00 – Attorneys assemble in Lee County courtroom. Judge enters.

Judge to read juror names: 4 men, 10 women (Blacks – 1 man, 1 woman) Judge thanks jury panel for their willingness to serve. Excuses them. Tells jurors what to expect, first as opening statements. Reminds jurors that the burden of proof is on the state. State can rebut defense evidence.

He also tells them they will not be “sequestered,” or held overnight, during the trial.

TRENT KELLY – to make opening statements for the state. 2:17 p.m.

I’m Trent Kelly, D.A. On 28th of Sept., the defendant Travon Brown is alleged through indictment to have murdered two people, Felicia Ruffin and Cornelius “Snoop” Harris. On this date, the state will show … that Brown earlier that night had a pistol… that he went to Harris apt. Took his gun there. Felicia shot and killed, Cornelius shot multiple times and killed. Brown has a wound to his hand, a gunshot wound to his hand. We will show the weapon belonged to him registered to him, brought to the scene by him, close to him when police arrived. No other handguns or firearms, guns, at the scene. No other people at scene when police arrived 3 minutes later… very quick time, because people are calling 911. When arrive, they see is 2 dead people, one on floor one on couch, in middle of turning page of a book, shot through back of head. Travon in bathtub with hand over the drain.

He is there, no one else is there. Others say no one else left. You will hear lots of witnesses, Please bring your common sense and make reasonable inferences. You will have fact witnesses – say I saw, I heard I smelled. You will have expert witnesses – about evidence they examined. Also secondary evidence – detectives, people who talked to others about wht happened.

Listen to the witnesses, don’t listen to us lawyers – we ask questions. Make sure any theories … that there are facts and evidence to support that. Make sure “what if” has facts and evidence to support it.

We must put on gruesome … photographs of what scene looked like. Gruesome? Not sure. I don’t like seeing them. They are necessary for you to see what it looked like when police arrived. Nobody created the scene. Not to shock you. Purpose to show you what scene looked like of what is going on at time.

Important thing – I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy. We must show you on 28th Sept. 2011, that Brown murdered Felicia and Cornelius. That’s what. Will be a lot of “suppositions,” but we must show you he pulled the trigger that shot and killed those victims. If we show you that, we’ll ask for a guilty verdict. Be wary of smoke and mirrors. Meat and potatoes are the nutrients of life. All kinds of other things on the side. They are not unimportant. But do they add something to the facts of the case to help you decide if .. Brown shot and killed these two. Will be things police could have done better. Of course. But does it add to the merits of the case and is it essential to decide his guilty or not.

He is presumed innocent. Take that seriously. WE gladly accept the burden of proof. We urge you to hold us to it. That he committed murder of those two individuals, Don’t hold us to a higher standards. Listen to witnesses, police, eye witnesses. They saw things from a different vantage point. Forensic experts… where shell cases fired from. Listen to all of it. Don’t make up your mind. I agree with defense – don’t make up your mind until you’ve heard everything. Nobody will tell you everything. Two of them are dead who know.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces will fit together. You should have a good picture in your mind about what happened. You may not know every details. Question – do you believe as a jury that Brown committed two murders. Ask you to find him guilty of both counts. 2:27

MCLAUGHLIN – 2:27 – This is about what happened late that night on Chapman Street. You’re going to hear … about what happened in a minute or so. We will look from every angle. We’ll have time to analyze it. The whole case is about … Brown had only seconds to react. On Sept. 28, he left his house in Tupelo, walked. They knew each other. Harris let him on and they played some football video game. Felicia, Harris’ girlfriend, was sitting there.

Ingredients for this tragedy were already in palce by the time Brown got there. I expect somebody will say Harris and Ruffin had been using cocaine that night. Maybe marijuana and alcohol. Brown brought a beer. Drug use going on. What happened next is what surprised him – fight broke out between Brown and Harris. You’ll hear Harris felt insulted by what Brown said. They struggled in small area, and a loaded 40 caliber pistol in Brown’s waisteband fell to the floor. They both went for the gun. They both get their hands on it.

This is very important – what happened. You’ll see photos – see front porch and street. There’s a bullet hole about a foot down by front door. Also, back into the house, high on the ceiling, nearly to the ceiling. Another hole down low. Then another in a different direction – strikes door facing. What I mean … no doubt that stray bullets went all over that house that night. House was shot up. In that struggle, evidence will show you that somebody tried to get away. In struggle, after many shots fired … somebody tried to run out the door. Unsuccessful. Other person hauled him back in. Two persons lost their lives. State will tell you it was Harris thqt ran out the door and Brown jerked him back. I do not believe that’s true … proof will show you it was … that Brown tried to get out of the house. Harris grabbed him back in and struggle continued. More shots fired. Everybody at house got shot. Harris 3 times. Ruffin … heart-wrenching … she gets shot in jaw or face. Brown in left hand.

After struggle for the gun, and shooting over, you’ll hear that Brown wrapped his left hand where he was shot, sat down in bathtub and waited for the police. Didn’t take them long to get there. He didn’t run away. Hears sirens approaching. He waited for them. You’ll hear what was and wwasn’t said. … that he was babbling … about somebody else shooting, not him. I don’t know anything about that. No formal statements to that effect. He didn’t gie a statement that night. About a day later, he did… told them what happened. He told them then what I’m telling you now.

Two people lost their lives. Also sad because third person is fighting for his life. State will not prove that he is guilty of murder. If you do wht Kelly said, you will prove Travon Brown innocent. State will not prove it. Not what happened that night. 2:36

STATE CALLS SHAE ROBBINS

ROBBINS (Weddle to question) – E911 dispatcher for Lee County. Tells jury about her job. Trained to do so. Tells them about process, when 911 call comes in. Received call late Sept. 28, 2011, about 1113 Chapman Dr. incident. Tells about the call from a cell phone and where it came from. Calls are recorded.

(Weddle is going to play the call she received that night.) (Somebody says emergency at 1113 Chapman. Man makes calls … somebody shooting. Need police over here right now. Man says he’s across the street. I need an officer. Doesn’t know how many people are involved. Heard shots from house. Somebody shooting. Snoop’s house? I don’t know. HANGS UP) Robbins calls Tupelo Police, tells them caller says shots have been fired. Caller says he’s outside, across the street. Somebody named Snoop. ….. [hard to hear TPD response… breaking up noise] … [Hear siren, EMS sounds – Robbins says possible shooting, request medics]

TPD or EMS says it will be there momentarily. Call 23:42. (Weddle turns off tape.)

(Weddle – in terms of your job, is that a typical call?) Yes. (A lot of chtter on recording … you communicated with police and medical personnel?) Yes. Accurate representation of the call I received. (Entered into evidence) Pinkard no objection.

(Weddle – during that call, officers use numbers to identify themselves. Also see on log, have some questions… about a broken window and door kicked in. What is that about?) It was the house next door. Not house victims found him. (What is dial tone? Who hung up?) [ can’t hear answer] …. (Police sees someone running on foot. Is that part of the Chapman Drive event?) That was an officer on another call. (Nothing to do with this?) No. (Female voice on recording…that’s you?) Yes.

PINKARD – No questions. (Robbins excused)

STATE CALLS SGT. DOUGLAS MANSELL, TUPELO PD

MANSELL – (Kelly to question – asks photo to be marked for identification only, now entered into evidence.) Works TPD over 15 years. Sergeant. Only worked for TPD. On Sept. 28, 2011, on duty that night. [Describes duties as sergeant, to supervise patrol shift.] Responded to 1108 Chapman. Heard the call, shots fired. Responded to it. (When got there, who else arrived?) Three others there when I arrived. Parker, Foreman, Haynes. Hadn’t gone into 1108 Chapman. Entered it. (Hands him photos) House responded to that night. Inside Tupelo.

Accurate depiction of that night. (Entered into evidence. Def – no objection)

(Prosecutors try to show photo on large screen in courtroom. Doesn’t work. Shows photo to the juror individually.) Says what house looked like when he arrived. Made entry. (Describe.) Door was open, as I walked up, I was briefed on what had. Went behind Haynes. I was fourth person in. Saw female on couch with book, head leaning back, Male on floor. First I looked to the right. Accurate depiction of what it looked like that night. (Photo into evidence – Def no objection.) (Having trouble with overhead. Clerk says she will reboot system. After some minutes, it’s working.) (Kelly – shows photo. Is that what it looked like?) Yes. (Can you identify these people?) No, I don’t remember their names. (Kelly tells him who they were.) (Photo shows man lying prone on the floor, his feet facing the camera with splotches of blood on the floor and a woman sitting still on the sofa, in the background.)

(Kelly shows another photo – of Felicia Ruffin sitting on sofa with a book in her lap, her head leaning back and a bleeding bullet wound on her neck just under her jaw.) In living room. Bathroom just off the living room. Went farther into the house and into the bathroom. (Into evidence – Def no objection) (Where is the tub?) That’s it in back. (Another photo?) Of the tub from a distance, showing inside of tub. Accurate depiction minus the defendant. Yes. (Look at paper photo. Was defendant in the tub when you arrived?) Yes. (Points to defendant. Defendant?) Doesn’t look like then. Hair different, facial hair. What he looked like he did on Sept. 28, 2011. Same man saw in 1108 Chapman. (Ask into evidence – Def no objection) He was in the tub, when I first saw him.

(Photo of what?) Tub. See pistol, beer can. shampoo. His back was to the left, lying in the tub. (One more photo – what is it?) Semi-automatic handgun. Same gun, just closer up. (Into evidence – Def no objection)

(Your responsibility?) To make sure scene was safe. Render aid, if needed. To secure the scene. (When you entered bathroom with Haynes?) Yes. (Did you speak to defendant or vice versa?) Mainly said to show me your hands. He complied. He said, that’s my gun. In my report. Said, “I didn’t know if he was here or not and that’s my gun.” Got him out of the tub. Walked back out told him to lay down on the floor. Cuffed him. (In bathroom, you and Haynes?) Yes. (Foreman and Parker came up later?) Yes. (Cuffed?) After we got him out of bathroom and lay down on floor. Foreman or Parker did it.

(Then, what?) Stayed on scene. Left the house. House was secured. I went outside. (Other open doors or windows?) Not that I noticed. (Who in charge of scene?) Capt. Haynes. 3:31

MCLAUGHLIN – (When got to scene, was Brown compliant?) Yes. (Did he do what you told him?) Yes. (No problems?) Right. (Did he have an injury?) Yes, blood on his hand and it was wrapped up. (Bleeding a lot?) I don’t know a lot… blood all over his hand, towel soaked. (No statement of Brown in scene?) Not that I know of. (No detectives on scene?) Don’t know. (Later?) No sir. (Had he been drinking?) I didn’t hang around long enough to know. Saw the beer. (Let me back up … you’re 4th in line, you walk in. Lights on?) Yes. See fine. (Anybody look in window?) Believe Haynes did. (What did you see? Blood?) Yes. (Seen crime scenes. See evidence of a struggle?) Well, saw blood. (Skid marks?) I don’t remember seeing that. (McLaughlin has photos to be marked. Asks him aobut marks on floor.) (Who took the photo?) Standing at front door, looking inward. (Know about where bullet holes were?) No. (See any stray holes?) No sir. Detectives assigned to case.

(Did you find any drugs or paraphernalia?) I did not. (Know about that?) No. (Other officers?) Right. (Showing him 2 more photos – Shows Travon that night?) Yes. (How he looked that night?) Yes. (Photo of when you said to lay down?) Yes. (Photos into evidence – State no objection.) (Nothing further 3:40)

KELLY RE-DIRECT

(Kelly – Putting photos into screen, ones he just looked at. Looking at floor?) No sir. (Know what it looked like?) No sir. Can’t say anything about appearance of scene. Can’t say when tracks and drag marks happened. (Signs of struggle… cell phone there?) Yes sir. (Debit card, cigarettes, box, book? Did she look like struggle going on when she was shot?) No sir. (No more questions. 3:43)

STATE CALLS RUSTY HAYNES (BRIAN NEELY TO QUESTION) KELLY ASKS FOR BREAK 3:43 P.M.

• • •

TUPELO – Fourteen jurors were sent home until 9 a.m. Tuesday to resume their work in the double-murder trial of Travon Brown.

Jurors began to hear testimony and see photographs from the Tupelo scene where a man and a woman were fatally shot in 2011.

Testifying in the state’s case were an E911 dispatcher and a Tupelo police sergeant who supervised the shift, which answered the call about the shooting.

TPD Sgt. Douglas Mansell also told the jury he found defendent Travon Brown in the 1008 Chapman Dr. home’s bathtub with a pistol and a beer.

The trial began this morning with jury selection, It’s likely to go for several days.

If convicted, Brown faces up to life in prison. He insists it’s a case of self-defense.

About 2:10, the 14-member jury was named from a pool of 79 registered voters. Two of the white women are alternates.

The jury consists of 10 women and four men, one of each sex is black.

Brown, 28-year-old black man, is charged with a double murder in 2011.
• • •

Below is a running account of Monday afternoon’s proceedings before Judge Thomas Gardner.

The state is represented by District Attorney Trent Kelly, assistant DAs Brian Neely and John Weddle. Defense attorneys are Adam Pinkard and Shane McLaughlin of Tupelo.

(Please excuse the typos and glitches likely as I type rapidly.)

2:00 – Attorneys assemble in Lee County courtroom. Judge enters.

Judge to read juror names: 4 men, 10 women (Blacks – 1 man, 1 woman) Judge thanks jury panel for their willingness to serve. Excuses them. Tells jurors what to expect, first as opening statements. Reminds jurors that the burden of proof is on the state. State can rebut defense evidence.

He also tells them they will not be “sequestered,” or held overnight, during the trial.

TRENT KELLY – to make opening statements for the state. 2:17 p.m.

I’m Trent Kelly, D.A. On 28th of Sept., the defendant Travon Brown is alleged through indictment to have murdered two people, Felicia Ruffin and Cornelius “Snoop” Harris. On this date, the state will show … that Brown earlier that night had a pistol… that he went to Harris apt. Took his gun there. Felicia shot and killed, Cornelius shot multiple times and killed. Brown has a wound to his hand, a gunshot wound to his hand. We will show the weapon belonged to him registered to him, brought to the scene by him, close to him when police arrived. No other handguns or firearms, guns, at the scene. No other people at scene when police arrived 3 minutes later… very quick time, because people are calling 911. When arrive, they see is 2 dead people, one on floor one on couch, in middle of turning page of a book, shot through back of head. Travon in bathtub with hand over the drain.

He is there, no one else is there. Others say no one else left. You will hear lots of witnesses, Please bring your common sense and make reasonable inferences. You will have fact witnesses – say I saw, I heard I smelled. You will have expert witnesses – about evidence they examined. Also secondary evidence – detectives, people who talked to others about wht happened.

Listen to the witnesses, don’t listen to us lawyers – we ask questions. Make sure any theories … that there are facts and evidence to support that. Make sure “what if” has facts and evidence to support it.

We must put on gruesome … photographs of what scene looked like. Gruesome? Not sure. I don’t like seeing them. They are necessary for you to see what it looked like when police arrived. Nobody created the scene. Not to shock you. Purpose to show you what scene looked like of what is going on at time.

Important thing – I am a meat and potatoes kind of guy. We must show you on 28th Sept. 2011, that Brown murdered Felicia and Cornelius. That’s what. Will be a lot of “suppositions,” but we must show you he pulled the trigger that shot and killed those victims. If we show you that, we’ll ask for a guilty verdict. Be wary of smoke and mirrors. Meat and potatoes are the nutrients of life. All kinds of other things on the side. They are not unimportant. But do they add something to the facts of the case to help you decide if .. Brown shot and killed these two. Will be things police could have done better. Of course. But does it add to the merits of the case and is it essential to decide his guilty or not.

He is presumed innocent. Take that seriously. WE gladly accept the burden of proof. We urge you to hold us to it. That he committed murder of those two individuals, Don’t hold us to a higher standards. Listen to witnesses, police, eye witnesses. They saw things from a different vantage point. Forensic experts… where shell cases fired from. Listen to all of it. Don’t make up your mind. I agree with defense – don’t make up your mind until you’ve heard everything. Nobody will tell you everything. Two of them are dead who know.

Jigsaw puzzle pieces will fit together. You should have a good picture in your mind about what happened. You may not know every details. Question – do you believe as a jury that Brown committed two murders. Ask you to find him guilty of both counts. 2:27

MCLAUGHLIN – 2:27 – This is about what happened late that night on Chapman Street. You’re going to hear … about what happened in a minute or so. We will look from every angle. We’ll have time to analyze it. The whole case is about … Brown had only seconds to react. On Sept. 28, he left his house in Tupelo, walked. They knew each other. Harris let him on and they played some football video game. Felicia, Harris’ girlfriend, was sitting there.

Ingredients for this tragedy were already in palce by the time Brown got there. I expect somebody will say Harris and Ruffin had been using cocaine that night. Maybe marijuana and alcohol. Brown brought a beer. Drug use going on. What happened next is what surprised him – fight broke out between Brown and Harris. You’ll hear Harris felt insulted by what Brown said. They struggled in small area, and a loaded 40 caliber pistol in Brown’s waisteband fell to the floor. They both went for the gun. They both get their hands on it.

This is very important – what happened. You’ll see photos – see front porch and street. There’s a bullet hole about a foot down by front door. Also, back into the house, high on the ceiling, nearly to the ceiling. Another hole down low. Then another in a different direction – strikes door facing. What I mean … no doubt that stray bullets went all over that house that night. House was shot up. In that struggle, evidence will show you that somebody tried to get away. In struggle, after many shots fired … somebody tried to run out the door. Unsuccessful. Other person hauled him back in. Two persons lost their lives. State will tell you it was Harris thqt ran out the door and Brown jerked him back. I do not believe that’s true … proof will show you it was … that Brown tried to get out of the house. Harris grabbed him back in and struggle continued. More shots fired. Everybody at house got shot. Harris 3 times. Ruffin … heart-wrenching … she gets shot in jaw or face. Brown in left hand.

After struggle for the gun, and shooting over, you’ll hear that Brown wrapped his left hand where he was shot, sat down in bathtub and waited for the police. Didn’t take them long to get there. He didn’t run away. Hears sirens approaching. He waited for them. You’ll hear what was and wwasn’t said. … that he was babbling … about somebody else shooting, not him. I don’t know anything about that. No formal statements to that effect. He didn’t gie a statement that night. About a day later, he did… told them what happened. He told them then what I’m telling you now.

Two people lost their lives. Also sad because third person is fighting for his life. State will not prove that he is guilty of murder. If you do wht Kelly said, you will prove Travon Brown innocent. State will not prove it. Not what happened that night. 2:36

STATE CALLS SHAE ROBBINS

ROBBINS (Weddle to question) – E911 dispatcher for Lee County. Tells jury about her job. Trained to do so. Tells them about process, when 911 call comes in. Received call late Sept. 28, 2011, about 1113 Chapman Dr. incident. Tells about the call from a cell phone and where it came from. Calls are recorded.

(Weddle is going to play the call she received that night.) (Somebody says emergency at 1113 Chapman. Man makes calls … somebody shooting. Need police over here right now. Man says he’s across the street. I need an officer. Doesn’t know how many people are involved. Heard shots from house. Somebody shooting. Snoop’s house? I don’t know. HANGS UP) Robbins calls Tupelo Police, tells them caller says shots have been fired. Caller says he’s outside, across the street. Somebody named Snoop. ….. [hard to hear TPD response… breaking up noise] … [Hear siren, EMS sounds – Robbins says possible shooting, request medics]

TPD or EMS says it will be there momentarily. Call 23:42. (Weddle turns off tape.)

(Weddle – in terms of your job, is that a typical call?) Yes. (A lot of chtter on recording … you communicated with police and medical personnel?) Yes. Accurate representation of the call I received. (Entered into evidence) Pinkard no objection.

(Weddle – during that call, officers use numbers to identify themselves. Also see on log, have some questions… about a broken window and door kicked in. What is that about?) It was the house next door. Not house victims found him. (What is dial tone? Who hung up?) [ can’t hear answer] …. (Police sees someone running on foot. Is that part of the Chapman Drive event?) That was an officer on another call. (Nothing to do with this?) No. (Female voice on recording…that’s you?) Yes.

PINKARD – No questions. (Robbins excused)

STATE CALLS SGT. DOUGLAS MANSELL, TUPELO PD

MANSELL – (Kelly to question – asks photo to be marked for identification only, now entered into evidence.) Works TPD over 15 years. Sergeant. Only worked for TPD. On Sept. 28, 2011, on duty that night. [Describes duties as sergeant, to supervise patrol shift.] Responded to 1108 Chapman. Heard the call, shots fired. Responded to it. (When got there, who else arrived?) Three others there when I arrived. Parker, Foreman, Haynes. Hadn’t gone into 1108 Chapman. Entered it. (Hands him photos) House responded to that night. Inside Tupelo.

Accurate depiction of that night. (Entered into evidence. Def – no objection)

(Prosecutors try to show photo on large screen in courtroom. Doesn’t work. Shows photo to the juror individually.) Says what house looked like when he arrived. Made entry. (Describe.) Door was open, as I walked up, I was briefed on what had. Went behind Haynes. I was fourth person in. Saw female on couch with book, head leaning back, Male on floor. First I looked to the right. Accurate depiction of what it looked like that night. (Photo into evidence – Def no objection.) (Having trouble with overhead. Clerk says she will reboot system. After some minutes, it’s working.) (Kelly – shows photo. Is that what it looked like?) Yes. (Can you identify these people?) No, I don’t remember their names. (Kelly tells him who they were.) (Photo shows man lying prone on the floor, his feet facing the camera with splotches of blood on the floor and a woman sitting still on the sofa, in the background.)

(Kelly shows another photo – of Felicia Ruffin sitting on sofa with a book in her lap, her head leaning back and a bleeding bullet wound on her neck just under her jaw.) In living room. Bathroom just off the living room. Went farther into the house and into the bathroom. (Into evidence – Def no objection) (Where is the tub?) That’s it in back. (Another photo?) Of the tub from a distance, showing inside of tub. Accurate depiction minus the defendant. Yes. (Look at paper photo. Was defendant in the tub when you arrived?) Yes. (Points to defendant. Defendant?) Doesn’t look like then. Hair different, facial hair. What he looked like he did on Sept. 28, 2011. Same man saw in 1108 Chapman. (Ask into evidence – Def no objection) He was in the tub, when I first saw him.

(Photo of what?) Tub. See pistol, beer can. shampoo. His back was to the left, lying in the tub. (One more photo – what is it?) Semi-automatic handgun. Same gun, just closer up. (Into evidence – Def no objection)

(Your responsibility?) To make sure scene was safe. Render aid, if needed. To secure the scene. (When you entered bathroom with Haynes?) Yes. (Did you speak to defendant or vice versa?) Mainly said to show me your hands. He complied. He said, that’s my gun. In my report. Said, “I didn’t know if he was here or not and that’s my gun.” Got him out of the tub. Walked back out told him to lay down on the floor. Cuffed him. (In bathroom, you and Haynes?) Yes. (Foreman and Parker came up later?) Yes. (Cuffed?) After we got him out of bathroom and lay down on floor. Foreman or Parker did it.

(Then, what?) Stayed on scene. Left the house. House was secured. I went outside. (Other open doors or windows?) Not that I noticed. (Who in charge of scene?) Capt. Haynes. 3:31

MCLAUGHLIN – (When got to scene, was Brown compliant?) Yes. (Did he do what you told him?) Yes. (No problems?) Right. (Did he have an injury?) Yes, blood on his hand and it was wrapped up. (Bleeding a lot?) I don’t know a lot… blood all over his hand, towel soaked. (No statement of Brown in scene?) Not that I know of. (No detectives on scene?) Don’t know. (Later?) No sir. (Had he been drinking?) I didn’t hang around long enough to know. Saw the beer. (Let me back up … you’re 4th in line, you walk in. Lights on?) Yes. See fine. (Anybody look in window?) Believe Haynes did. (What did you see? Blood?) Yes. (Seen crime scenes. See evidence of a struggle?) Well, saw blood. (Skid marks?) I don’t remember seeing that. (McLaughlin has photos to be marked. Asks him aobut marks on floor.) (Who took the photo?) Standing at front door, looking inward. (Know about where bullet holes were?) No. (See any stray holes?) No sir. Detectives assigned to case.

(Did you find any drugs or paraphernalia?) I did not. (Know about that?) No. (Other officers?) Right. (Showing him 2 more photos – Shows Travon that night?) Yes. (How he looked that night?) Yes. (Photo of when you said to lay down?) Yes. (Photos into evidence – State no objection.) (Nothing further 3:40)

KELLY RE-DIRECT

(Kelly – Putting photos into screen, ones he just looked at. Looking at floor?) No sir. (Know what it looked like?) No sir. Can’t say anything about appearance of scene. Can’t say when tracks and drag marks happened. (Signs of struggle… cell phone there?) Yes sir. (Debit card, cigarettes, box, book? Did she look like struggle going on when she was shot?) No sir. (No more questions. 3:43)

STATE CALLS RUSTY HAYNES (BRIAN NEELY TO QUESTION) KELLY ASKS FOR BREAK 3:43 P.M.

• • •

EARLIER STORY AND COURTROOM ACCOUNT …

TUPELO – E911 dispatcher Shae Robbins is the state’s first witness in Travon Brown’s double murder case under way in Lee County today.

Before the lunch break, a defense request for mistrial was denied in the double-murder case against Brown.

Defense attorney Shane McLaughlin insisted that the potential jurors saw Brown brought in shackles and was prejudiced by that sight, but Judge Thomas Gardner disagreed.

Earlier, one potential juror got extra attention from the court about 12:30 p.m. about a conversation she had with a likely witness shortly after 78 others exited for lunch.

Gardner told the jury pool he expected a final jury decision by 2 p.m. and the trial to get under way shortly after.

Seventy-nine potential jurors took their seats this morning for service in the double-murder trial of Travon Brown, set to begin today in the circuit court of Lee County.

They were seated from a 250-member pool called for possible selection.

Brown, 28, stands accused in the 2011 shooting deaths of Cornelius Harris, 22, and Felicia Ruffin, 36, at a Chapman Street residence in Tupelo.

The defense is expected to try to cast doubts on the state’s evidence.

Brown insists he acted in self-defense. He is represented by Tupelo attorneys Adam Pinkard and Shane McLaughlin.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Neely will prosecute the case.

Judge Thomas Gardner presides over the Lee County Justice Center courtroom.

Brown was originally indicted on two counts of depraved heart murder, but in July 2012, another grand jury indicted him on “deliberate design” murder.

Today is the opening of circuit court’s November term.

Twelve jurors and likely two alternates will be chosen to consider Brown’s fate.

* Come back for periodic updates from the downtown Tupelo courtroom.

• • •

Please excuse the typos and other glitches likely as I type rapidly. Below is a running account of today’s courtroom activity.)

9:10 – Judge, attorneys, defendant enter the courtroom. Brown is wearing a navy-colored suit with a white dress shirt, and red bow tie and pocket handkerchief.

GARDNER – Welcomes prospective jurors. Explains how their names were chosen for jury service. From a pool of registered voters, chosen randomly by a jury commission and computers. Administers first oath to jury pool. Asks if any have seen a television news report about the case – 5-6 raise their hands. None says the report had any effect of them about the case. One man says he isn’t sure if he saw it but he saw something. Judge explains two counts charge murder against the defendants.

Says defendant is presumed innocent unless the state proves to every jury member guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Man says his thinking is that there are more people involved than just the defendant. Judge says that’s to be proved or not. (Man identifies himself for judge, attorneys, clerk.) Man says he can listen to evidence with an open mind.

Judge asks other questions. Did anyone see defendant enter the courthouse? One raises hand. Asks if anything about that causes the person any problem or causes you to consider he is guilty. (No one raises hand) Asks if judge has said anything, or seen or heard, that would influence you in any way… for or against the state or the defendant in this case? (No one raises hand)

Numerous other questions come from jury pool. Judge listens to stories and excuses about a dozen of them from service. Appears about 250 summonsed for jury duty.

Ultimately, by 10:30 a.m., 79 people remain as potential jurors in this double-murder trial.

COURT TAKES BREAK – 10:40 A.M.

• • •

11:00 – Judge, attorneys, defendant back. Jury pool in its assigned seats. State invokes “the rule,” which means any potential witnesses must not be in the courtroom.

JUDGE – Explains pool is now “jury panel” but not the final jury yet. Tells them defendant is charged with two counts of murder. Judge will ask additional questions, then turn it over to attorneys. He warns them not to respond to questions with answers about the case. He intros the various attorneys. Asks defendant, Travon Brown, to stand so jury panel can “have a look at you.”

(Judge begins to ask standard questions of pool like knowing attorneys, that might influence decisions. No hands. Follows with other questions. About prior jury service, lawsuits, media coverage, facts of the case, etc.) One man stands and says he’s a third-cousin to one of the victims. He is excused. (Continues with questions, about the victims, defendant’s innocence under the law, experiences with crimes, etc.) Woman stands and says her father was murdered. Says experience would not influence her in this case.

(Related to anyone in law enforcement, prior jobs in law enforcement, anything else that would halt ability to be a fair juror.) Woman raises her hand. Says she knew defendant as a teacher. Says she can listen to evidence.

STATE – 11:38 – DA Trent Kelly to ask questions of the jury panel. Asks if anybody knows any of them. (Some hands go up. They know attorneys. Say can be fair.) Continues with questions about experiences, victims of crimes etc. Asks if he’s prosecuted anyone, contacts with military, watching TV crime shows, lawyers or paralegals, “reasonable doubt,”) Kelly says he can’t define “reasonable doubt” but he says it isn’t “no doubt.” Asks jury not to hold him to the burden of proving “no doubt.” (Asks of anybody knows Travon Brown or his family.) 12:08 done.

SHANE MCLAUGHLIN – (To question jury pool.) Says he doesn’t have a lot of questions left. Asks if anybody feels like if Brown’s been charged, there must be something to it. Man says he thinks that. Another man says the same thing. (Asks pool about self-defense, stand your ground laws. Nothing wrong with strong opinions. I just want to know if you hold them. Anybody believe you shouldn’t have the right to defend yourself, even with lethal force?) Nobody raises hand. (Says judge will tell what MS law is about self-defense. Can you follow what he says?) No hands. (Will hear about somebody carrying a loaded gun … some people say they don’t approve of that. Or just the bad guys? Do you feel that way?) No hands. (This is a tragic case. It’s a sad case. Disturbing. You’re going to feel some emotion, as a result of the loss of life. Trial is about … more analysis, what happened. Anybody feel like they couldn’t set aside natural sympathy?) No hands.

McLaughlin – Cornelius Harris, went by nickname, “Snoop.” Also worked at Woodie’s, you might have seen him. (Nobody knew him.) Does anybody work for TPD or have immediate family that does? (No hands.) Any law enforcement? (Some have connections. Nobody says it would influence.)

A lot of witnesses in this case (reads list): Police names, (asks if anybody has personal relationship with any of them?) Woman knows some of them. She works with Lee County Youth Court. Another woman has a lot of connections to TPD. Says their testimony would not influence her. (Another list of witnesses – Dr. BArnhart, Mark Boackle, Dr. Lewis, Linda Beichler, Burchfield, Hale…. know anybody?) Woman knows one but not well. (More – names who live in Chapman Street, others?) Woman No. 24 says she spoke with a potential witness. Judge says they will deal with this later.

He says government gets to go first, then defense doesn’t start until after they are done. Asking … you’ll hear them first, does anybody believe they will decide before they hear the rest of the story, Travon’s story? Will you wait to make up your mind? (Nothing further except remaining issue. 12:30)

JUDGE – We’ve asked a lot of questions. Two men said you thought just mention of any charge, there must be something to it. Do you understand defendant is presumed innocent and burden is on state of Mississippi to prove it. (They say they understand.) Do you mean you think he is guilty? (They shake their heads, no.) Can you listen to evidence and fairly return verdict? (Yes, they shake their heads.)

Maybe we didn’t ask the right question. Any reservation in your mind to sit as juror, listen to the evidence and determine guilt or innocence based on what you heard, not some notion of something else, and instructions of the law. (No hands.)

(Judge asks lawyers to come to bench for a moment.) Attorneys say can seat jury by 2 p.m. and take evidence during the afternoon. Asks woman who talked to potential witness to remain. Excuses jurors until 1:55 p.m. (Jury panel exits courtroom.)

Judge asks black woman some questions in absence of rest of jury pool You indicated you had a contact with someone, Mary Babbitt. (Kelly says she’s related to a witness.) Woman says she spoke up when list read. Kelly says he doesn’t intend to call her, although she’s on the state list. Judge says she’s done nothing wrong. Conversation must have occurred before you came into the courtroom. She says yes. Did she tell you anything about the case? (Woman says she doesn’t remember much about the conversation. Nothing about how the case should be decided.) She was talking about Cornelius Harris, her nephew. Would that have any bearing on your decisions? (I hope not. Not close but known her for a long time, practically all our lives.) Important to how you reacted to what she shared with you. (Yes.) I need to know, if you can put that aside or if it would have any influence on you? (I won’t say it won’t bother me. Think I could judge.) (Attorneys have no questions.) She’s excused for lunch.

• • • 12:43 p.m. • • •

JUDGE – Several matters to take up on the record. One, after talking with Mrs. XXX, I think she would try to do as she says, the right thing. I’m not certain that she ever said she could or would or not be influenced by the revelation. Do you have any thoughts? (Kelly – I would not oppose her being stricken for cause. McLaughlin – move she be stricken for cause.) Judge agrees.

I have excused Juror 32 for cause, others (calls our numbers). State – any challenges for cause? (Neely – one attempted to be a client of Mr. Pinkard. We ask he be stricken for cause.) Pinkard – no objection. Judge- OK for cause.

DEFENSE – Calls other numbers, for cause. (One is a former teacher. She said she could be fair and impartial. We don’t agree that she should be stricken. Kelly – we object to her being struck. We have to take their words for it. Object to either being stricken.) Judge – denies challenge. McLaughlin – names others lined to Kelly. Others say saw media coverage but also same ones who said “there’s something to” defendant’s indictment. (Judge – challenge denied for each of these. I think they told me they were open to guilt or innocence.)

McLaughlin – moves for mistrial – One, defendant was brought in in presence of venire in arm and leg shackles. Approximately six said saw him come in in chains. We think he can’t get a fair trial, they will presume he is guilty. I don’t think it can be undone. Not a bell we can unring. Also, misttrial on basis of media coverage this morning. I am informed that some coverage contributed delay to the defense. That did not come from the defense.

JUDGE – Denied. I very carefully avoided stating to panel, I don’t know what his condition was per restraints. Some said saw him. Many more said they hadn’t. I am not certain … if he were seen by them all, would be prejudicial. Prisoners are frequently brought into this courtroom for various and sundry reasons, in shackles. Don’t think it affects this defendant. They are a good cross-section of the county, say not opinionated against this defendant.

With that, the state will tender 12 … let’s seat 2 alternates. 12: 55 p.m.
• • •