Darrent Williams murder trial, day eight: "Are there people in your community who believe you to be a very scary guy?"
Prosecutors say Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams (left) was shot and killed by 26-year-old Willie Clark (right) on New Year's Day 2007.
Westword is covering the trial of Willie Clark, accused of murdering Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams early on New Year's Day 2007. The most recent updates for the day will be at the top; to check out the account chronologically at day's end, read from the bottom up. Click here for accounts and links related to the first week of testimony, plus day five, day six and day seven.
1:40 p.m.: At 1 p.m., before the jury returned to the courtroom, Judge Habas asked Clark whether he had decided to testify in his own case. "I will remind you that the decision of whether or not you testify is yours and yours alone, even if your attorneys have urged you one way or another," she said.
"Have you made a decision?" she asked.
"I'm undecided right now," Clark said. "Just undecided."
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Habas said that put her in a tough position in terms of scheduling. The prosecution is expected to rest its case today, and the defense won't start to present its case until tomorrow morning. Habas said she needs to know Clark's decision sooner rather than later.
When the jury returned, prosecutor Bruce Levin rested the prosecution's case. "We have no additional evidence at this time," he said.
Clark's defense attorneys said they didn't have a witness ready to testify this afternoon, since the prosecution rested its case ahead of schedule. Given that, the judge dismissed the jury early for the day and told them to return tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. to hear the defense's witnesses.
"Now that the people have rested their case, it is very tempting for you to make up your minds," Habas told the jurors. But she urged them not to. "It's important as jurors for you not to disadvantage the defendant."
12:16 p.m.: Before the jury arrived this morning, the witness who asked for anonymity and was denied it yesterday told the judge that he refused to testify. He was held in contempt of court and arrested. When the jurors entered the courtroom just after 9:30 a.m., Judge Christina Habas read them a statement that said that the witness was ordered to testify and refused. She didn't tell them his role in the case.
Vernone Edwards took the stand around 9:40 a.m. Edwards is a Tre Tre Crips gang member and former drug dealer who is currently facing federal charges as a result of the same cocaine trafficking sting that also netted Willie Clark, Daniel "PT" Harris, Brian Hicks and others. Edwards said he's known Clark since 1993 or 1994, when Clark was ten or eleven; they grew up in the same neighborhood. He said Clark is a Tre Tre Crip too, and that Hicks is a de-facto member. Harris is a Grape Street Crip, he said.
On New Year's Eve 2006, Edwards said he was sick and decided to stay in. On New Year's Day 2007, he said he heard from his friend Felix Abram that "Willie Clark got into it with some Bronco players at the club" the night before. At that point, Edwards said he'd seen the shooting on the news.
The next day, Edwards said he talked to Clark. "He called me and asked me, could I get him another gun. I asked him what happened to the one he had. He said he got rid of it." Edwards said Clark carried a .40 caliber Taurus gun and asked Edwards if he could get a "twin," or a nearly identical replacement.
Clark also mentioned the shooting. "He asked me if I seen what happened to the Bronco player on the news. I said, 'That was fucked up.' And he said, 'The fool shouldn't have been talking shit.'"
At that point, Edwards said he decided to conduct his own investigation into the crime. The next person he talked to was Harris. "He told me that him and Lil Willie got into it with somebody at the club," Edwards said, and that Harris had jumped into a fight involving Clark and maybe his sister to try to defuse it, but that he had ended up punching someone. Harris told him he got into a car with Clark, Mario Anderson and Kataina "Markie" Jackson-Keeling -- both of whom have refused to testify -- and that Clark "leaned over and started shooting out the window without giving anybody a warning."
After talking to Harris, Edwards said he called Clark and asked to meet with him face-to-face. "The first thing I asked him, I said, 'Why did you do it.?' He said the guy pulled a gun on him." Edwards said he accused Clark of lying. "I told him no famous football player with famous people around him was going to pull a gun in front of everybody. He kept saying, 'I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to do it.'"
Edwards said he told Clark to turn himself in. "He said, 'I can't do all day, I can't do life.'" The meeting lasted only five minutes, Edwards said. During it, he said Clark was jittery, pacing and chain smoking. "I asked him what he was going to do, and he said he was going to go on the run," Edwards said.
Edwards said he was concerned the shooting would bring trouble for his drug organization. "A lot of heat was going to come down," Edwards said." It was outrageous and out of control." Hicks was already in jail on federal drug charges, and the police were looking for his white Tahoe in connection with the Williams's murder. Edwards said Veronica Garcia, who was Hicks's girlfriend, told him that Clark parked the Tahoe in her garage, and she asked Edwards to go check on it.
In her garage, Edwards said he found empty black spray paint cans, a gasoline can and a few newspapers. The house smelled like gasoline and there were black footprints in the kitchen, he said. Edwards said he tried to clean it up; he said he collected all the empty spray paint and gasoline cans and newspapers and "drove around, throwing it away in different parts of the neighborhood."
On cross-examination, defense attorney Abraham Hutt questioned Edwards's credibility. "Is it unfair if I say you've been involved in a lot of deception in your life?" Hutt asked.
"No," Edwards said.
He pointed out that when Edwards was arrested on federal cocaine and crack-trafficking charges, he told the police that the only thing he did was "selling a little bit of weed here and there." Hutt said that Edwards also denied being involved in "gang activity," said he only hung out with Hicks and other drug dealers because they were friends and were lonely, and denied providing armed security for the drug ring, although he admitted that he had a gun sitting six inches away from him.
"That's not armed," Edwards said.
Edwards also admitted to having prior drug-related felony convictions, conspiring to commit a robbery with Harris and the Abrams, and using fake names. "Are there people in your community who believe you to be a very scary guy?" Hutt asked.
"I don't know how to answer that question," Edwards said.
Edwards is one of the people who took a plea deal in his own case to testify in this one. He said he was facing thirty years to life and his deal would have prosecutors ask him to serve ten to twenty instead.
The court took a lunch break at 11:35 a.m. The trial will resume at 1 p.m.
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