Ward trial: Prosecutor, defense question first witness about death scene

By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal

5:02 P.M
TUPELO – The state began its case against Thomas James Ward this afternoon, and his defense attorney went after a Saltillo policeman for his handling of the death weapon.

Ward, 25, was indicted in the 2010 shooting death of 20-year-old Itawamba Community College student Anna Catherine McCoy.

The trial began Tuesday in the Lee County Justice Center with Judge James L. Roberts Jr. presiding.

Tupelo attorney Victor Fleitas represents Ward. Prosecutors are District Attorney Trent Kelly with assistants, Richard Bowen and Josh Wise.

(Below is a running account of today’s court action. Please excuse the likely typos and glitches as I type as fast as possible.)

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(Get live updates via Twitter.com @realnewsqueen #Wardtrial or more detailed periodic reports @DJournalnow.com)

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4:25 – Judge, jury return.
FLEITAS to question Saltillo police official Prentiss Brown, who was first law officer to shooting scene April 15, 2010.
(Fleitas – understand you were shift supv over patrol that night. God 911 call, possible self-inflicted wound. All told to you?) That’s right. (Anyone at residence could have heard sirens as you approached and blue lights, possibly?) Yes. (Arrived almost same as Price, Gobel patrolmen. Where parked?) In front of home. (You were in charge as senior officer. Gave instructions to them?) Not at that time. (Going through garage door, encounter Ward coming out front?) Yes. (Wht was he doing? Screaming?) Yes. (Loud, frantic, desperate screams?) Yes. (Just wanted to make sure. You went into house.) Correct. (Was Lindsey going inwith you, or what?) He was going inwith me. (Tell Price or Gobel about what to do?) No. They went in also. (None of four of you approached Mr. Ward?) I didn’t, can’t say for them. All focussed inside house. He was going to door and was standing on threshold, screaming. (Thomas Ward pointed to back BR?) Yes. (Would you say he was hysterical?) Yes sir. (Down hall, encountered another man, Thomas W. Ward?) Yes, his father. (He was screaming?) Yes. (Hysterical, frantic, desperate?) Yes sir.
(Did he point where to go?) Yes. (Standing by door way in Thomas’ room?) Yes. (You went into room.) Father stood at doorway. (Adrenalin is going, desperate situation. See young woman covered in blood, obvious distress?) I did. CPR. (Do not survey room?) Had broad view of room but go toward body. (You go to do, see her, go to administer CPR?) Yes. (Focus on her?) Yes. (Didn’t view either men as a threat?) Not in the house at the time. (CPR?) Yes.
(You didn’t get pulse started?) No. (Difficulty clearing her airway?) Yes. (Understood she was shot somewhere on head?) Yes sir. (Others approached? Well after that, others came?) Fire Department did, Nowell, Wages and another. I exited, then came in. (Their focus is on Ms. McCoy?) Yes. (Are you watching?) Yes. (Moving her?) Her arms. (Are they moving?) Not much. They knelt down around her body. Grown men, two towards feet and one on her left side. (Small room, cramped?) Yes. (Put tube down throat?) Something, don’t know what was. Administered first aid. (Others arrive? EMT from North MS Med Center?) Correct. (Two more, stood in hallway until firemen exited. You backed away from door to let them in. EMTs took over with med assistance?) Yes. (See them?) Not so much, talking to Investigator Haygood. Wasn’t paying attention to medical assistance at that time.
(EMTs assisted her. At some point, determined to stop treatment?) I guess so. (That’s when you went back into the room? EMTs cleared room.) Right. (Until they said they were done, you viewed it was their place?) Yes. Scene was still technically mine. They were there for life-saving purposes. (To demonstrate … puts photo on screen of front of house … where Thomas Ward was standing screaming?) Correct. (Shows other shots of house, most taken a few days later?) Unaware of when taken. (Mentioned term medical examiner had arrived, pronounced McCoy dead. Coroner?) Yes. (You testified you stayed at scene about an hour or so, after EMTs left?) Just about total. (Left about 11 or 11:30?) Yes.
(No crime scene tape over room?) Correct. (No tape around house?) Correct. (Saltillo PD, others released the house back to Thomas W. Ward, Thomas’ father?) Yes. (Took some photos that night, of room, but it was not sealed off as crime scene that evening, right?) Correct. (In fact, no law enforcement came back for 4-5 days?) I did not. I don’t know what other officers did. (You came back later/) No, never returned.
(As I understand it, you were the officer who was tasked with or responsible for… takign evidence Haygood deemed relevant to Crime Lab?) Yes. (2-3 days later?) I don’t know the date. (Records would reflect when?) Yes. (That was your involvement?) Yes.
(You mentioned photos you took. After EMTs left?) They were still on scene but not in room. (You went back into the room and took some photos?) Yes. (Some of them …. shows him others.) He identifies as his photos. (Another?) Yes. (Those taken after scene visited by you, 3 firemen, and 2 EMTs?) Correct. (Did you know if they applied defribilator?) Think so, saw them sticking pads on body. (When did you handle the firearm?) When I collected evidence … when coroner was there. (Let me see if I understand … picking up the firearm. Sir, I believe you testified earlier that this was the condition of the firearm when you first handled it… with magazine extracted.) Correct. (After EMTs left and coroner had gone into the room, you took some action with gun?) I baggedit in evidence bag. (IN this condition?) No. I closed the slide. (Explain how you did it.) Slide button is on the left-hand side. (May I hand the firearm to the witness? With slide back, it exposes the chamber?) Yes.
(You would have seen no magazine at that tine?) Yes. (Weapon in a safe condition?) Yes sir. (You had no business messing with it, correct?) That’s correct. (You were tampering with scene, weren’t you?) OBJECT – BOWEN. (JUDGE – Will sustain it according to language. (FLEITAS – You testified that reason to manipulate gun because you wanted to put it in safe condition?) I did not say that. (So what Bowen said is wrong?) I said I slid it forward. (Chief, that’snot your firearm, you understood that?0 Yes. (Did you… understanding tht was condition of firearm… did you take a photo of firearm in that condition?) No. (Original condition?) No. (Did you pick it up, in yourhand, physically manipulate it?) Yes., had to push a button. (Yet you didn’t photograph it in state it was originally in?) Yes. (But took this photo instead. It isn’t a true picture?) Correct. (Did not reflect what scene looked like?) Correct.
(Isn’t it true that yourt handling of firearm was …. wrong?) Yes sir. (You knew better than todo that?) Yes sir. (And yet you did it anyway?) Yes, I did. (Fleitas takes firearm from witness.)
FLEITAS – (You prepared a report that evening. Did you understand that when you made report, as a sworn law officer, an experienced law officer, that you had an obligation to correctly, honestly and fully report on your activities that night?) Yes. (Isn’t it true that nowhere in your report that night did you write, mention or allude to fact that you had mishandled that firearm?) I didn’t. (You covered it up?) Id idn’t, I just omitted it. I simply forgot it. (Forgot to note thatyou had mishandled evidence in this case?) Yes. (And you got promoted after this?) Yes sir.
(Think it might have affected your promotion that you mishandled evidence ona scene?) NO. (Promoted anyway?) Yes.
FLEITAS – NO FURTHER QUESTIONS 4:54.
BOWEN – Re-direct. (Did you have any improper motive in moving that slide foward?) I did not. We’re trained to keep our slides forward. Out of habit, I slid it forward. (That was part of your training, was it a reflex?) Yes. (What is required to move it?) Left thumb push it and move slide forward. (Picked up gun – can you show jury what you did that night to move slide? How you did it that night?) I do. (Puts firearm on carpet, how found it on floor?) It is. (Were you standing?) Yes. (Show jury what did.) He leans down, picked it up… and as I did, I hit the button. (Anything improper, ulterior motive?) No sir.
(Officer Brown, based on what you know now, did that affect the investigation?) NO. (When you … Exhibit 2 shows it best … Officer Davis riding with you. Gobel with Price… Shows photo of house … to left is garage.) Myself, Price, Davis went through right. Gobel came through front door. (You just showed how you moved this gun. Why did you do that?) Inestigator Haygood advised me to collect the evidence. (Was gun moved in aid to McCoy?) I did, just for safety purposes with medical personnel coming in. Don’t recall anybody asking to move it. (As lw enforcement person, did you know defendant before this?) No. (Other than this, have any interest in outcome of case?) No sir.
4:59 – Bowen asks to remain in witness room, Officer Brown.
JUDGE – It’s a little early by some standards and late byu others. Guessing next witness may take some time. BOWEN – Next will be at least as lengthy as this. Have one maybe less.
JUDGE – I think proper thing to do is recess for the day. WE have gotten great deal done. Remains much to be done. Sensitive to fact that in addition to lawyers, and jury and officers of court don’t need to be stressed unnecssarily.
Will recess. Judge warns them not to speak to anyone else etc.
5:05 p.m.
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3:59 POST
TUPELO – Family and friends of Anna McCoy, as well as the man accused of her murder, saw graphic bloody photos of her dead on a bedroom floor April 15, 2010.
The prosecution began its case with testimony by the Saltillo police officer who was first to the shooting scene that night.
The accused – Thomas J. Ward – became emotional, too, at the sight of the dead woman who’d been in his bedroom that night.

Ward’s jury of five women and seven men took their seats just after 11 a.m. Three male alternates also were chosen.

Ward, 25, was indicted in the 2010 shooting death of 20-year-old Itawamba Community College student Anna Catherine McCoy.

The trial began Tuesday in the Lee County Justice Center with Judge James L. Roberts Jr. presiding.

Tupelo attorney Victor Fleitas represents Ward. Prosecutors are District Attorney Trent Kelly with assistants, Richard Bowen and Josh Wise.

(Below is a running account of today’s court action. Please excuse the likely typos and glitches as I type as fast as possible.)

• • •

(Get live updates via Twitter.com @realnewsqueen #Wardtrial or more detailed periodic reports @DJournalnow.com)

• • •
1:30 – JUDGE back in courtroom. Court and counsel engaged in discussions in chambers with regard to certain potential issues in the case. Before jury comes in, is there anything you wish to make a matter of record? My belief that probably most if not all those matters an be dealt with as they arise during trial.
One other matter court should handle at this time. Aug. 4, 2011, motion for change of venue was filed by defendant. Fairly lengthy hearing devoted to that matter. At end of testimony that day, the court stated that it didn’t believe a case made for a change of venue but would reserve decision prior to selection, in case jury couldn’t be selected. Trial scheduled first in March, then continued. Case re-set for May 1, 2012. That said, motion for change of venue is denied and overruled.
Any questions for me, besides that.
FLEITAS – Simply request that all matters related to jury process be made part of record with change of motion venue.
JUDGE – Absolutely. For benefit of those in the courtroom, anticipated the trial will take several days. I don’t know how long. Varying estimates. I prefer not to operate in a system of rush, pressure and stress. Better not to do that. I know case will move as well as it can move. That’s what I want. Open proceeding, you’re welcomed to be here. Know you understand that this case is extremely serious. You’re expected to conduct yourself at all times in a decent manner. That means, I ask you to keep down conversations … keep down coming in and out to a minimum. I understand emotion and feeling. I don’t know what’s going to be offered by each side in this case, and I understand there’s emotion and feeling. But ask you to conduct yourself in a forthright manner. If unable to control an absolute outburst, ask you to remove yourself from the courtroom or I will have you removed. Ask you to keep those emotions in check for an ordered proceeding.
Jury instructed. Hope none of you have loud cell phone in courtroom. Do not communicate electronically while in this courtroom. Important that you not do that. Important that you do not photograph or attempt to photograph anyone. If I or bailiffs see that, they are to confiscate your device. Not a threat. Please control your phone. Do not text or send message or photograph anyone. Absolute. To ensure absolute confidentiality of the jurors, as well as we can.
It’s an extremely serious manner. Want to conduct it on that basis.
Anything else, counsel?
FLEITAS – Think with respect to matters address in chambers, should not conclusions for the record. “Argument with Boyfriend,” Gunshot Evidence,” “Target Shooting with Gun,” “Offhand remark,” “Lindsey Holland statement,” “Jimmy Lloyd Statement,” “Sarah Littlejohn Statement,” and “McCoy Facebook Page.”
BOWEN – Correct, your honor. As to Sarah Littlejohn, I don’t recall statement that defense might call her as a witness. No response to that.
FLEITAS – Only point making was that she isn’t going to be called but may remain on their witness list, if they don’t call her, I may want to place her under subpoena. (Asks judge if counsel may approach. Judge says yes.)
1:49 – Attorneys confer at bench with judge. Fleitas has brief conversations with Sheriff Jim Johnson, deputies and bailiffs. (What that’s about isn’t apparent.)
JUDGE – House keeping perhaps, I rarely keep exact time on some matters. You’re about to make opening statement. Not going to limit you within bounds of reason,. That said, how long might you wish for. Kelly – less than 10 minutes. Fleitas- no more than that but may refer statement to later.
Other matters? After opening statements, will you go ready to move on testimony?
BOWEN – State will be ready to proceed.
JUDGE – Bring jury in please.
1:52 – Jury takes seats.
JUDGE – We are not about to commence the trial. Will hear one, maybe one and maybe not one.
After that, we will go into presentation of witnesses. The state goes first. Spectators got same instructions as you have.
1:56 – KELLY to open for state.
KELLY – Ladies and gentleman, I’m Trent Kelly the DA. On April 15, 2010, Anna Cathering McCoy was a 20-year-old college student. Beautiful girl, daughter, sister, friend. Friendly, energetic, full of life, soccre player. ICC student, promising future and life in front of her. On April 15, about 10 p.m. in Saltillo her life and future came to an end at hands of Thomas Ward. He shot and murdered her, ending her life and her future, her dreams. Thomas Ward shot her with his 40-cal S&W handgun, brandnew flashlight sight attached. Shot her in the face. Exited top of skull, killing her instantly. Three people in the house. Ward, his father and McCoy.
Two people in that bedroom where it happened – Ward and McCoy, who is dead. She’s not here to tell the story of what happened. We will reconstruct through expert testimony what we believe ghappened. Definitely we will show what did not happen. Not an accidental bump of trigger. Ward is charged with depraved heart murder. State will prove that he committed depraved heart murder.
Judge will tell you what that is later. We know what hfacts were told to E-911 and law enforcement. Scientific evidence and expert testimony will be used by state to show that what they were told is not true. They cannot be true. As part of this, we must show you gruesome, graphic pictures. Wish we didn’t. But we must.
Thomas Ward’s fully loaded handgun was used to shoot and murder Anna Cathering McCoy. Magazine with 12 rounds, one spent and one live ejected from it – all belonging to Ward. Found at the scene with her dead body, shot in the face. Experts will show it just did not go off, but was fired from over 40 inches away. Her arm was much shorter than 40 inches. She could not have touched it when it fired. Reported that night, that trigger bumped and gun just went off. Not true.
Handgun used to murder her, that pretty young girl, fired and owned by THomas James Ward. Specifically mfg with safety features to prevent just those things. Expert testimony will show it had a double-action trigger and 10-12 lb trigger pull to prevent that from happening. It took a full and complete pull of the trigger. Like pulling a 10-pound bag of sugar while pulling trigger.
Ward fired it and hit her where he aimed – in the face. Caused almost instantaneous death. Recklessly pointed and shot her in the face.
Ward acted so recklessly by pointing, aiming and shooting Anna McCoy. We will provide proof to find him guilty.
FLEITAS – 2:03 – All of you are here because prosecutors, defense and grief …. base don questions asked to you that you an be fair and impartial. Look at evidence, weigh it and come to decision based ont he evidence. You didn’t ask to be here. To do justice in this case. Prosecution and Ward agree about something – that Anna McCoy was a beautiful girl and she had a life full of promise. She is dead. And she died at the home of Thomas’ father while his dad was at home in the kitchen. Regular night after haing gone out to each dinner. She was shot with a gun purchased at Scruggs and she had picked out. Mr. Kelly says that Thomas is a murderer. The indictment in this case is for depraved heart murder. Says “without intent.” Intent is something state must prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt. Intent.
State is not going to tell you or suggest that he knowingly and intentionally with a desire to kill her. That is malice of forethought. That is not what he is charged with. He is charged with depraved-heart murder, a common term from England. Referred to as 2nd degree murder. Reckless, malicious as to justify that intent. This case is going to be about “intent.”
Kelly though was not telling entire story. Your going to consider two other things by time you get this case. Also going to consider whether tha ctions that night constituted culpable negligent manslaughter. Judge will give you instructions for that. Difference? It’s intent – what was intended. Also to consider a third thing – in final analysis you will find by evidenc e- that what happened to Anna McCoy was a horrible, unfortunate and traic accident. No more and no less.
The state insists this is murder. Defense insists this is an accident.
They talked about proving this fact through expert testimony. You are going to hear from various experts by state.Probably from young forensic pathologist, from perhaps another forensic pathologist Steven Hayne and more later on. Going to hear from Paul Smith about Smith & Wesson Corp. One or two others as experts on what happened that night.
State’s theory – what presenting to you in this case is a theory – about what happened that night. A theory only. Subject to being accepted by you, beyond a reasonable doubt. Because other evidence … two ballistics experts, will say state’s evidence is wrong, not credible, can’t explain what happened tht night. From forensic pathologist … to talk about what took place with collection of data, how believable state’s evidence is. If it were all so neart … sure wouldn’t make much sense for any of us to be here. Reason we’re here is because state’s case does not add up to a conclusion of depraved heart murder beyond a reasonable doubt.
A man may be accused … accusations does not make it go. Evidence must support the accusation or it is false. In this case, the accusations are false. This was not depraved heart murder. It was not. Thomas James Ward did not intentionally or in any way desire to or kill Anna Catherine McCoy.
You’ll hear testimony … I have a small office on Front Street where I work by myself. I have a secretary. Woke up one morning and read the paper. I got a call and I had a decision to make. I’m from Miami – living in Mississippi 19 years. I had a decision to make. I’m here by choice. I’m here because I want to be here and need to be here. Thomas James Ward did not murder Anna Catherine McCoy. How I wish to God it had not happened and she was here and alive and well.
But I can’t look at my client and not think about my three boys – a daughter has been lost, and I am so sorry. But Thomas did not kill her. He did not kill her. He did not kill her. I do not want his life to be destroyed. 2:16 p.m.
JUDGE – Counsel, rule is invoked … to ensure your witnesses are not in the courtroom.
BOWEN – First state witness, Prentiss Brown. Saltillo PD officer
BROWN – Police officer, Saltillo. 10 years. Cites other law enforcement experience, formal training, certifications, including firearms. Certified in that about six months ago. Rank assistant chief. Was captain in April 2010.
(Bowen asks him to go back to April 15, 2010. What were your duties then?) I was patrol. (About 9:58 p.m., did youget a clal concerning a shooting? Wherr weryou?) Yes, at Saltillo Police Department. Names officer with him there. (Were they patrolmen or administraitve rank?) All patrolmen. (What message got?) Call from 911 that had a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound. (Is that emergency response?) Yes. (Directly from 911?) Yes. (What was reported to you?) That we had a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Ofc Davis Lindsey went with me. Two others responded, Price and Gobel. In another vehicle. (How far is SPD from the location?) Approx 4-5 miles. Towards west from PD. Wesson Heights subdivision, roughly off Old 45. (En route, did youget other info from 911 or anyone else?) No sir. (Contact any superiors or others?) No. (Know approx time arrived?) About 2-3 minutes after 10. (AT the scene, is it a house?) Yes, 3 BR 2 Bath house, porch, garage. (See any vehicles there?) In driveway. Don’t know how many. (Did you and Gobel get there first?) Almost simultaneously. (Arrived, see any people outside?) No. (What did you do?) Noticed garage door was open, Entered through that into residence into kitchen. When noticed Thomas J. Ward going out front door. (Did you know him then?) NO. (Did you generally describe him?) Younger male. (In courtroom?) I do, seated by Fleitas in yellow shirt.
(Did you speak to him?) NO sir. (What then?) Ward pointed down hallway and said Help. (Say antying else?) No. (What did?) I continued down hallway and met an older gentleman, Thomas W. Ward, at end of hallway. Didn’t know him either. Younger man’s father. (Recall what he said to you/) He said same, pointed toward BR on right side and said Help her. (Go into BR?) I did. (Describe BR.) Small square BR, prety standard, maybe 11 x 11 or 12 x 12. (Center of house facing Hwy or on end?) ON the end of house facing the roadway. (What did you see?) Saw a female covered in blood at doorway. (Which wall was doorway?) North wall. (South wall facing road?) Yes.
(Notice furnishings?) to left, computer desk with computer. Regular size bed, end table, dresser on right. Also, an office chair. (Not what first noticed?) No (What about the woman?) She was laying flat on back, arms at side, feet straigt out. Covered with blood from head to about her waist. Feet pointing toward south, toward head of bed. (Clothed?) In undergarments, panties and bra. (Going back to first man, Mr. Ward, how dressed?) Paid of shorts only. Kind of like gym shorts. No shirt or shoes. (Anything else notice about him?) He was covered in blood, His neck toward waist.
(Entering BR, what did?) I checked for vital signs of female, her pulse. Did not find a pulse so I started CPR as trained. trying to clear an airway. Couldn’t get clear airway so went to chest compressions until med personnel gets there. (Blood cause?) Couldn’t tell where coming from. Knew in facial area but couldn’t tell exactly wehre. (Other officers in room?) NO. (Noticed blood on any other items in room?) Floor around body had significant amts of bllod. But on bed there was large blood pool on comforter and also on pillow. (Was bed against the east wall?) Yes. (Headboard against south side?) Yes.
(Anything on bed, like sheets?) Black comforter. White pillow with black pillow case. Blood on them. There was a good bit on pillow along with some hairs. (Anything else on pillow?) Light sandy brown hair, long hair. All I noticed. (How long attempted to CPR girl?) Around 5-6 minutes, Fire Dept. arrived. (Try to get more info about what happened and who she was?) Not at that time.
(Someone else appeared?) Saltillo Fire Dept. 911 dispatched them, too. Any kind of medical call they get called to handle it. More medical training than police. Take over when got there. About 3 personnel that night – (named them, couldn’t remember third man’s name.) Remembers third name. (EMT training?) Not sure, think so. (Once they relieved you, what did you do?) Mark Haygood investigator arrived and I stepped outside and advised him what was going on. Haygood is our investigator. Called by Gobel to 911 and asked to call him. (What doing when he arrived?) Firemen relieved me and I heard on radio that he was outside. I stepped out to speak with him. Told him what I knew. (Who was Haygood talking to?) Nobody at that time.
(After that?) We entered the residence and went to the BR where firemen were performing CPR on female. He took overview of room and what was going on. (Did you determine who else was in house except victim?) Yes. Me, Haygood, firechief, 2 firemen. At time of shooting, two Thomas Wards. (Ascertain older man was father?) Yes, later. (Did you attempt to ascertain what happened?) I did not.
(What next?) Stood by until med personnel had cleared what they were doing, making mental notes of the room. (During resusication, any signs of life?) I didn’t see any. (EMTs?) Didn’t see any life signs. (After that, when Haygood got there?) He took control of investigation. He wnt to speak with Thomas J. Ward and Thomas W. Ward. Not present during conversations. (He said?) Told me to collect evidence and take photographs.
(How did you go about that?) Anything to do with a firearm. Anything that had blood on it. I took into evidence. (Besides itemsin BR, see any other items in room that might relate to shooting? On floor?) Cell hone, looks like a couple of remotes. (See gun?) On floor, saw a magazine to go into a firearm on floor. Noticed a unfired round on the floor and also a cartridge of a fired round. (Describe the gun?) Handgun, pistol. Magazine is also called a clip, holds extra ammunition and feeds gun as it fires. Fits into handle or stock of weapon. (Also found unfired cartridge?) Correct. Ammunition. (Also found fired cartirdge case?) After fired. (Were these items found related to gun, near each other?) Some distance between each. (Could you tell where gun was?) On victim’s left side, just left of her head. (Toward door?) Correct. (Unfired live cartridge?) On her right side about her elbow or forearm. (Magazine?) Her left side about forearm or wrist area. (Fired cartridge?) Under office chair.
(Fired cartridge?) Found it after medical examiner got there. While she was checking body, I saw it under the chair. (Know if anyone at scene pronounced woman dead?) I believ med examiner did. (Were you still there when victim ws removed from BR?) Yes. Remain there?) I did. (Others?) Yes, Price I believe.
(How long stay there?) Approx hour, hour and a half. (Take pix of BR and what found?) I did. (After you did, did you gathter items?) I did. (What did with them?) Sealed in bags, took to SPD wehre logged into evidence room. (After you left house that night, did you return next day?) I did not. (What did you do with the items of evidence recovered?) Logged into evidence and locked up. (After?) Trnasported to MS Crime Lab in Jackson.
(Bowen approaches the witness. Thumbs through photographs. Officer Brown, let me show you state exhibits. What are they?) Ward residence, responded to that night. (Starts passing photo to jury) (Exhibit 2 – photo) Same house, different angle. Garage in Exhibit 3. (Others, Exhibit 4 – live cartirdge. Is that arm of victim on floor and location of live round?) It does. (Exhibit 10 – also show that?) It does. (Exhibit 11 – gun that night?) Yes sir. (Exhibit 12 – face and head of young woman on floor, locaiton of gun?) It does. (Exhibit 13 – is that young woman on floor and location of live round?) It does. (Exhibit 14 – spent round near chair?) It does. (Exhibit 15 – pillow you mentioned on bed?) Yes. Points to hole in pillow and blond hair going into it. (Also night stand with cellphones and remotes?) It does. (Exhibit 5?) Large blood pool on comforter. (Exhibit 6 – Another angle of victim on floor?) Yes. (Items next to her head?) Towel, some kind of machine Fire Dept. used. (Exhibit 7?) Blood on inside of pillow case, on white pillow. (Exhibit 8 ?) Blood pool on comforter on bed. (Exhibit 9?) Blood on pillow also.
(Bowen wants to post photos on overhead projector.) Judge asks everyone to approach.
2:57 – Judge says some of you should be prepared, you maynot wish to see them. If you ahve seen them, you know to be prepared. If need to exhibit the courtroom, you may do so.
BOWEN – Posts photos on overhead projector (Asks Brown to verify photos he took.)
BROWN – Describes what photos depict. (PRB – I can hear some friends of McCoy making sniffing sounds as if they are weeping behind me.) (Graphic photo shows McCoy dead, bloody face, staring blankly at ceiling. Gun lying on floor a foot or so from her head.) Brown says 12 rounds in the gun. Has tactical flashlight attached to the bottom of it. A standard flashlight. (PRB – can see big blood pool under McCoy’s head as she lies on the floor. Large blood pool on comforter on bed.) Exhibit 16 – picture of the pillow and a hole in the pillow with strands of blond hair being pushed into the pillow. Exhibit 8 – shows bed with comforter and large blood pool. (What is this white cloth?) I’m not sure. It was ont he bed (PRB – It looks like a towel.) Exhibit 10 – shot of live round not far from McCoy’s body. Exhibit 11 – Close up of the gun.
(Asks him about taking evidence to Jackson.)
(Asked about gun slide?) Top of gun, I closed it after I … habit … I closed it after I was the gun was clear.
(Bowen shows him large brown bag) Bag items were returned in after sent to Crime Lab for examination. Brown uses a knife to open the bag. (Recognize what’s in there?) Pillow and pillow case.. ones sent from death scene. Stains saw. (Know what examinations performedon it?) Don’t know. (Was projectile found in it?) It was. (JUDGE – Marked as a composite exhibit).
(BOWEN – 3:19 – shows Brown small brown envelopes, asks him to open it. What’s in it?) Projectile I marked and sent to Crime Lab. (Shows him another envelope from Crime Lab, what’s in it?) Empty shell casing. Found that night at scene. (One other item in envelope. What is it?) Three other smaller envelopes. Contents – appears to be some hairs in first one. Fabric of pillow case. Same fabric. (You said hair on casing?) Yes, I did.
(Exhibit 28 – box, sealed. Please open and check content.) Couple of envelopes, two clear bags with spent cartridges, some with live ammo. Also, a magazine and a firearm. Appears to be one found at death scene that night. (Said when found it, slide was open. Demonstrate to jury?) Yes (See you slid slide back and locked open, is that normal?) NormaL, when it’s empty like this. (That night, slide was open like it is now?) Yes. (With light intact?) Yes. (Also a magazine or clip in that envelope? Pick it up.) Yes. Magazine, didn’t count rounds that night. Later, found 12 rounds. (Something else, do you know how magazine is loaded. Will you unload it and reload it by placing rounds back in it?) I will. It’s empty now. Envelope with live rounds, right here. (Officer, envelope … open and retrieve live rounds.
FLEITAS – Prior to demonstration, would like to ascertain what other items are. (JUDGE – Approach and ascertain what they are.) FLEITAS – How many live rounds?
(BOWEN – How many?) Seven. (Can you load them without putting magazine in weapon?) Yes. (Brown loads bullets into magazine quickly.) (Bowen – you just loaded 7.) It had 12 rounds. Requires force, more put in, the harder it gets. Requires force. (Now, empty magazine and replace those live rounds into envelope.) He does. (Any knowledge of what Crime Lab did with those things?) I can assume but don’t know. (Requested of them?) To fire weapon with the ammunition.
(Another envelope from Crime Lab, labeled Test Pattern. Got that back from Lab?) It is. (We ask that all these individual items be marked as exhibits with Brown’s testimony. For weapon, mark as separate exhibit.) FLEITAS – No objection to admission of firearm. (Judge – admit into evidence.)
(BOWEN – asks admission of magazine, other contents of the box … 7 live cartridges, 5 spent cartridges … FLEITAS no objection with extent to testing, established by live testimony.) FLEITAS – asks to inspect bags with bullets, casings. (BOWEN – asks that each of box’s contents be admitted into evidence. FLEITAS with same response about being established by live testimony.)
3:47 – (BOWEN – asks to admit box all these items came in, received from Crime Lab.)
(Bowen checks with office investigators in the courtroom. He then checks with Kelly.) (Bowen asks Brown about sketch of BR where items were found. Have you reviewed a recent sketch with locations?) I have. (If I show you one, can you show the jury?) I can. (Investigators lift easel with graphic.) FLEITAS – Asks author of document. (Bowen – ask if Brown can step down from stand and point to sketch.) (Look at this sketch, tell the jury if you can identify it as a rough but fairly accurate sketch of what you saw with regard to furniture, items you identified earlier.) Yes sir. Approx layout of BR, showing doorway. Doorway I entered. First noticed the body of the victim. Approx where saw her lying. (Brown points out various items on the graphic for the jury.) Brown shows jury where pillow was situated, and with headboard. Shows where gun was situated, with slide open. (Were you first one to see that shell casing?) To my knowledge. (Windows?) Yes, behind night-stand.
Brown says graphic fairly and accurately shows locations of items found in the room the night Anna McCoy died there. (Bowen – asks chart to be marked as exhibit. FLEITAS – would like to question witness before I know if I object. Bowen – let’s mark it for identification and we can move ahead. FLEITAS – That’s acceptable.)
(BOWEN – To Brown, though you said you didn’t identify woman, who is she?) Anna Catherine McCoy. (Eents, did they occur in Saltillo, Lee County MS?) They did.
WITNESS TENDERED.
JUDGE – presume you have cross. Jury has been seated for two hours and appropriate to take a recess.
• ••

11:25 POST

TUPELO – Thomas J. Ward’s jury of five women and seven men took their seats just after 11 a.m. today. Three male alternates also were chosen.
Opening statements by the state and defense are slated after a lunch break.

Ward, 25, was indicted in the 2010 shooting death of 20-year-old Itawamba Community College student Anna Catherine McCoy.

The trial began Tuesday in the Lee County Justice Center with Judge James L. Roberts Jr. presiding.

Tupelo attorney Victor Fleitas represents Ward. Prosecutors are District Attorney Trent Kelly with assistants, Richard Bowen and Josh Wise.

(Below is a running account of today’s court action. Please excuse the likely typos and glitches as I type as fast as possible.)
• • •
(Watch live updates via Twitter.com @realnewsqueen #Wardtrial or more detailed periodic reports @DJournal.com)
• ••
10:48 – Judge back, Atrorneys say read to bring jury panel back.
FLEITAS – Says sense was to get jury back, then take up a motion in limine.
JUDGE – Recall that matter is pending. My plan would be to get jury in, seated, then will take up the motion and any matters that need to be outside presence of the jury. First confer in chamber about those, then put anything about them on the record in open court. State – any reason not to excuse remainder of the jury? Fleitas – says no reason. Kelly – agrees.
If this trial goes into next week, I don’t anticipate any other jury action this week (Attys say correct.) Asks bailiffs to bring in jury panel.
10:52 – Bailiffs counting panel. Seem momentarily confused about number present. Should be 59. Now, report “all present.”
JUDGE – Reconvenes session. Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to seat a jury. Appreciate your patience and cooperation during the wait.
Calls names of jurors – 12 with three alternates. Thanks, all of your for your participation in this system of justice.
11:01 – Jury sworn in – 5 women, 7 men. One black man among them. 3 white male alternates.
JUDGE – Remainder of you could just as well have been seated. The lawyers and court worked within the rules, as we understand them. Do the best we can. Thanks to each one of you.You have leant a considerable amount of credence to the court and what it does. This is an extremely important case.
Confers with attorneys briefly.
Speaks to spectators – Rarely have difficulty with anyone who isn’t courteous. Ask you to be as circumspect as could in leaving and entering. (About a dozen people scattered across audience. Includes at least three attorneys.) To jury – offers some preliminary instructions. Reminds them not to read or watch news. Tells them they can’t take notes. System depends on all jurors paying close attention. Reminds them not to communicate with anybody else about the case. Not to use electronic devices to communicate about the case or do research about it. Not going to confiscate your cell phones or other devices. Prefer to believe you are responsible and obey instructions of the court and not improperly use those devices. Just do not use any devices to seek information about this trial or issues connected with it.
Next, will be opening statements by the attorneys. Then witnesses will be called to testify under oath and cross-examined by the other side.
However, we have a few matters to consider outside your presence. This is not an easy case, most are not easy. (Looks at clock) Seems most practical thing to do is excuse you for lunch and return in jury room by 1:30. Stresses importance of not discussing case with anybody yet. Believe this trial is going to take several days.
11:20 – Jury leaves for lunch break.
JUDGE – Asks counsel of need chambers conference. Both sides say yes. Court will be in recess for a few minutes.
• • •

10:40 POST
TUPELO – Objections were denied that five African-Americans were wrongly excluded from the jury selected today in the depraved-heart murder trial case of Thomas James Ward.
At 10:40 a.m., the court prepared to seat a 12-member jury with three alternates.

Ward, 25, was indicted in the 2010 shooting death of 20-year-old Itawamba Community College student Anna Catherine McCoy.

The trial began with the efforts to winnow down a 100-person jury pool Tuesday in the Lee County Justice Center with Judge James L. Roberts Jr. presiding.

Ward’s counsel, Victor Fleitas of Tupelo, will try to convince the jurors – three of them alternates – that McCoy’s death was a tragic accident, not murder.

Prosecutors are District Attorney Trent Kelly with assistants, Richard Bowen and Josh Wise. Circuit Judge James L. Roberts Jr. presides.

(Below is a running account of today’s court action. Please excuse the likely typos and glitches as I type as fast as possible.)
• • •
10:07 – Judge back in courtroom, notes defense objection to state strikes of 5 African-American potential jurors. Court still dealing with three jurors.
Any further announcements from state?
KELLY – Didn’t know whether they were white or black at the time. Juror x – I believe she has a nephew who was murdered some years ago, case pled recently. I didn’t sya this about other juror, woman – says she also worked at Daily Journal. We didn’t want anyone from media outlet. As far as the first juror – stands up and voices concerns about punishment. May indicate leniency. Others we wanted to get to.. and it was a matter of which jurors we wanted to get to. There has been no showing that state used any base of race to pick a juror or to strike. Tendered another very early.
JUDGE – I have accepted state’s explanation per 2 others. Will accept explanation as to the woman about her comment. I am concerned about that. As to No. x and No. xx – I am not sure that … well I am relatively sure … that their comments do not constitute any sins. Not in position to observe eye contact. On No. xx – woman – don’t think her employment matters. Going to … not going to accept explanations on those two. Willing to list to anything further, but I don’t believe those two constitute race-neutral positions. Will give you a little more time to work. Tell me where we are.
BOWEN – One other comment on Juror – we worked late last night in attempt with defense to select this jury. May have been a mistake not to engage court’s help. As court well knows, state is obligated to tender 12 to defense. Then defense has 12 challenges for those offered jurors. Mr. Fleitas did that on 5 of them. We then offered another 5 to give him full 12 to pass on. Only after that … that we had tendered, and Fleitas exercised challenges .. somewhere in there, or after… Fleitas advised me about Batson challenges. If we had known that when first exercised first challenges, it would have impacted state’s others. When we made that tender, he did not indicate that he would exercise Batson challenge. If we had known, we would have given race-neutral reasons. It would have had an effect on other jurors we tendered. Has bearing on this. We probably should have asked for court’s involvement. Batson should have been exercised initially. I argue he’s waived Batson challenges by not making that known at that time.
JUDGE – Tell me … male female breakdown and race too.
KELLY – We don’t know the race.
BOWEN – We were relying, of course, … I always don’t remember seating but on lists. One or two names we weren’t sure male or female, looked at info slips. State never considered race during these deliberations. We truly did not know except for front row.
FLEITAS – Numerous things could say, but court’s direct question … as we selected yesterday, I believe it was 6 male and 6 female. With respect to race, I believe it was as tendered … it’s 1 or 2 of 12 are AFrican-American. I am honestly uncertain about one. I don’t know about her. Yesterday, we did not get state’s tender … until after 6 p.m…. we got their first 12. My mandate as I understood it was to work as hard as we could to get this done. I got their 12, I gave back what I had. With their 8 strike, they struck 3 AFrican-Americans at that time. I did suggest to them, I have a Batson issue will want to bring up. But it was too late, reporter was gone. Disagree respectfully, I said I would bring up Batson today. Clearly, counsel says No. x strike was to make eye contact with her. Counsel had to know what her race was. Another, man, his race obvious. No question about next woman about her race, same can be said about others. I would be remiss in my responsibilities if I were not conscious about race and how it permeates our society. I don’t think state’s reasons were sufficient to strike.
JUDGE – I said 3 jurors … aren’t sufficiently race-neutral. Two others, I have some concerns. Not finding that the defendant waived anything. State entitled to consider that. Don’t believe constitutes a legal waiver, and so find. Regardless, Batson issue is alive and well for a long time. Reverse-Batson applies. What I am uncomfortable with is that lawyers can see things that I miss. Unfortunately we cannot all see everything at the same time. My concern. As I understand reasons for No. x Woman, she never commented. Another woman, no response. I’m further bothered by each side says you did not know the race of these jurors … or all of them anyway. Sometimes we can’t tell by observation. I am finding … think about it a few minutes … that two are race-neutral and Batson challenge is overruled. How much longer will this take?
FLEITAS – We are ready.
JUDGE- Now, one side to call the juror number selected and other side double-check.
FLEITAS – Suggestion, might go down list and identify what strikes were. Needs to be in the record.
BOWEN – Happy to proceed. State tenders – (He’s listing ones struck and tenders or accepts.) 8 strikes.
FLEITAS – Walks through subsequent decisions by defense on remaining jury list. Accepted 7 at that point.
BOWEN – Picks up next action by state. Gave defense 12 jurors, of 5 additional to consider.
FLEITAS – In response, defense accepts 2 of them. Total 9 so far.
BOWEN – Continues with report on process. Adds 3 jurors to list.
FLEITAS – Accepted 2 more. Total 11 so far.
BOWEN – Continues. Adds
FLEITAS – Accepted 3 there – that gives us 12.
BOWEN – Selection of alternates – state tenders 3.
FLEITAS – Defense accepts 2 of those.
BOWEN – Continues. Gives one more to pool.
FLEITAS – Defense accepts that one more.
JUDGE – I don’t mean to infer that either side made any mistakes, but make any records you want to make. Now, let me call those numbers for the jury? (Fleitas – yes… asks that list be made part of the record. Judge – it will.) For clarification, I’m calling the list.
• • •

9:52 A.M. POST
TUPELO – Fifteen men and women are not yet in place to consider Thomas J. Ward’s future this morning as the 25-year-old Saltillo man faces a depraved-heart murder charge.
Ward was indicted in the 2010 shooting death of 20-year-old Itawamba Community College student Anna Catherine McCoy.
He insists he is innocent and his counsel, Victor Fleitas of Tupelo, will try to convince the jurors – three of them alternates – that McCoy’s death was a tragic accident, not murder.
Prosecutors are District Attorney Trent Kelly with assistants, Richard Bowen and Josh Wise. Circuit Judge James L. Roberts Jr. presides.
Tuesday, Roberts told prospective jurors he expects the trial to last all week, perhaps longer.
If convicted, Ward faces life in prison without possibility of parole. The death penalty is not a verdict option, Roberts said.
(Below is a running account of today’s court action. Please excuse the likely typos and glitches as I type as fast as possible.)
• • •
• Get live courtroom updates on Twitter.com @realnewsqueen #Wardtrial or frequent detailed reports @DJournalnow.
• • •
9:08 – Defendant Thomas J. Ward enters courtroom. Dressed in yellow polo shirt, black trousers. Several minutes before, attorneys spent time with judge in chambers. No info on what was discussed, yet.
Roberts enters with load of documents. Says counsel have been conferring in chambers, not an unusual occurrence.
What I’m going to do, he says, will ask entire jury panel to return to courtroom. (He recounts Tuesday’s history with not finalizing jury selection. Left courtroom about 7 and counsel was still working, he says.) Will give them a status report as to where we are. Then I will ask them to return to the foyer so we can conduct matters outside their presence.
Asks counsel how much longer it will take?
Fleitas – we have tentative jury selected, with alternates, subject to one challenge from yesterday.
Judge – Want to tell them we need about another 30 minutes. Won’t make any other announcements to counsel. As you are aware, there is another matter to address after they return to the foyer.
9:12 – Judge asks bailiffs to bring in jury panel. (He laughs and says, “These are great guys,” about the bailiffs.)
Fifty-nine potential jurors take their seats in pews next to courtroom’s north wall. Bailiff says two new jurors arrived today, but weren’t here Tuesday. Judge says to seat them on other side of the courtroom.
Judge – 59 present? (Yes.) Thank you. Tells jury panel about a status report. Extremely cooperative and patient. We appreciate that. Permits court to do its work and move along as best it can. Sometimes time consuming and inconvenient. This one is absolutely important. We try to be as careful as we can to proceed cautiously and deliberately. Better for everyone involved.
Reminds them about Tuesday and decision to send them home without final picks. I think it was the better decision to let you go at 5 than to keep you. Not able to get jury selected last night. Now, you’re here. Court and counsel in chambers with discussions, which is why you’re late coming into court.
Lawyers have worked hard. They are extremely close to getting a jury selected – probably another 30-45 minutes … we might be able to seat a jury. That’s another 30-45 minutes and I understand. We’re working and moving along. Other matters that must be conducted outside your presence – done in accordance with rules.
When I tell you, you’ll step outside while we handle other business. Do not discuss this case, etc. Except for the two who came late, I’ll ask the rest of you to step into the foyer.
9:23 – Jury pool exits courtroom. (Deputy explains to judge that two “late” jurors actually are for other cases.)
Judge asks two from jury pool to come down front. Waiting on one other person. (Deputy says he went outside, bailiffs attempting to locate him.) Two men, one woman. Judge says it’s nothing to be extremely nervous about, but I’ll explain it outside rest of panel. May not be something to it, may be. When something occurs or seems to have occurred, I have obligation to look into it.
Late yesterday, court learned that one juror may have commented outside or somewhere about case. Don’t know if you did or not. You appear to be a nice man. What you said may have been innocuous, but fellow jurors reported it to the court. When we say you’re not to discuss the case, that’s an absolute rule. To others – you reported you had heard conversations. All three under oath from yesterday.
To man accused of talking, recall it? He says had to do with knowing girl from soccer. Judge – says don’t you know not to comment? Man says – was a general statement, I didn’t know it. Judge – No comment means absolutely that. To others, you’re on the spot, I know. (Says to others – is that what you recall?) Other male juror, you told us not to discuss but when I heard him to talk about it, but said man talked about knowing family and didn’t want to be here. I just walked away. (To woman- what heard?) Woman says – they won’t pick me because I know too much about this.
Judge – Those are normal statements, but we’re in court on an extremely serious matters. But general rule is that court is important. When you’re instructed not to talk, it means absolutely not to say a single word. Perhaps you didn’t want to be selected. But when you thoughtlessly say something, it reverberates but not in a good fashion. As far as I know, everyone else has complied. (Man says – I am on commission, but have gotten off several times but decided to come. I didn’t know what case was. I apologize.)
Judge – asks attorneys if have questions. They say, no.
Judge – Always some concern or thought about what court should do about this sort of thing. I may be mistaken, I’m going to find that this conduct does not rise to level of meting out punishment, tho it’s a close call. Everybody is busy, have other things to do. But we all have to abide by the same rules. That said, thanks other man and woman and others who brought this conduct to the attention of the court. Consider that matter closed.
9:36 – Judge – are you ready to take up issue about other potential juror. (Legally – called a Batson issue.)
FLEITAS – I’ll be brief. Discussed with counsel yesterday. No secret, we have tentatively got our jury pending this matter. State has exercised its challenges and used in such a way to strike a number of African American jurors from venire. Defense asks court to ask state why struck certain ones – 5 of them. Five of 11 strikes on African-Americans.
KELLY – Defendant is a white male and not in a class. We did select and take some black jurors. As to a woman …. we didn’t know they were black until the defense challenge … as to her, sat on front row… she never made one comment. She tried to establish eye contact with the defense. That bothered me. Next juror, sleeping during voir dire. He appeared disoriented. Another juror – no response to any questions, she voluntarily said if this is death penalty case… she can’t sit. Said to me she was more lenient. Another – woman made no response during questions. Don’t know what race she is. Final one – man, we intended to try to strike for cause because he said he couldn’t hear most of what was said by court. Concerned he couldn’t be a fair and impartial juror. Finally, burden on defendant that we struck for race-based reasons. We’ve shown neutral reasons.
FLEITAS – Question isn’t based on Mr. Ward’s race. I will … heard these reasons. I have no argument, after hearing reasons …. Last juror – remarks about hearing is legitimate basis for that strike. Having been said, must be noted that of 11 strikes, 5 were to African-Americans. If look at proportion to venire. Juror – they said attempted to make eye contact .. I noticed no such thing. In any venire, some people will or won’t make eye conduct. That’s extremely vague reason for striking a juror. As to man – I noticed no disorientation, no sleeping. With respect to principal argument that certain AFrican-Americans who didn’t answer at all, that some jurors tendered by the state, none made any comments whatsoever to any question. I understand standard for challenges, there is a history and a great deal in research regarding use of pre-emptory challenges. All I say is that race-neutral reasons by state with respect to these African-Americans, are not legitimate. They are selecting and basing them on reasons not used for white jurors. Ask (names numbers of jurors) that state challenges by deemed in violation of fact. I will say this, your honor, only reason for one woman was just non responses. I will say that in respect to one woman … about her concerns for death penalty … ask court to strike challenges in respect to African-American jurors.
JUDGE – No. xx – man agrees that he said he had difficulty with hearing. I accept the race-neutral explanation for him. As to No. x – I do not recall … sleeping or disorientation. That is a function of counsel or staff. If you say you observed it … I don’t have any way to rebut. Will accept reason as race-neutral. As to No. xx – I have some concerns about her comment (death penalty), I should have announced this was not a death penalty case. She asked about it for what it was worth. Accepting race-neutral reasons for her. On three others, I want you to discuss those and if you have anything else to say to me or Fleitas, do so. I’m going to rule but want to give you opportunity to look at that further. 10-15 minutes enough to do that?
RECESS FOR 15 MINUTES.
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