Darrent Williams murder trial, day two: Perjury debates and tales of a "Georgia boy"
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. And click here to catch up on day one.
5:31 p.m.: A childhood friend of Clark's named Henderson Abram took the stand next. On New Year's Eve 2006, Abram said he went out to dinner with his cousin Felix Abram and friends Clark, Daniel "PT" Harris and Marvin "Coffee" Bragg. Afterward, he said, they all went to The Shelter, which lawyers and witnesses are referring to as "Safari" -- another name for the ever-changing club.
Abram said he was hanging out and drinking inside the club, mostly with his cousin. He said he left the club at let-out and he and his cousin got into a disagreement. Abram said he walked off, but his cousin caught up to him and talked him into returning with him to his car, which was parked near the club.
That night, Abram said he was wearing white jeans, a white shirt, white boots and a white fake-fur coat. The sidewalk surveillance tape shows a man in all white walking past the club at 2:22 a.m.; Abram said it's him. Abram said he and his cousin were headed toward his cousin's car, a green Ford Expedition. Before driving home, he said, they stopped at a gas station. There, he said, they ran into Harris.
State prosecutor Bruce Levin also asked Abram whether a recent car accident has affected his memory. "A little," Abram said.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Darren Cantor questioned Abram's memory about whether Clark went out to dinner with Abram and his friends before going to the club. Cantor pointed out that Abram first told the police that Clark wasn't there. "I don't remember," Abram told the jury.
Cantor also questioned whether Abram truly remembered where he was coming from when he walked past the club again at 2:22 a.m. "You could have been sitting in a green Expedition before that with your cousin Felix? You don't remember?" Cantor asked. "I don't," Abram said. In opening statements yesterday, Cantor told the jury that Harris got into a green SUV with Abrams after he left the club.
Cantor attacked Abram's credibility by pointing out to the jury that he was one of the witnesses who was facing federal drug charges and made a plea agreement with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony in this trial.
The jury was dismissed at 5 p.m. The trial will resume tomorrow at 9 a.m. But Habas said she'll bring Anderson and Jackson-Keeling in at 8 a.m. to ask them again whether they're willing to testify. According to court Public Information Officer Rob McCallum, the two men can be held in contempt until the judge decides to drop the charge. If they don't change their minds before the trial ends, prosecutors can decide whether to take further action against them.
4:11 p.m.: The jury returned at 1:15 p.m. The next witness, Raven Dennis, was "unavailable" to testify today -- court documents indicate that she's having surgery - so the court taped her testimony earlier and played it for the jury this afternoon. Dennis, 31, is Finch's girlfriend.
Dennis also described what happened at the club that night. She said she overheard a 21-to-23-year-old black male wearing sunglasses and a camouflage jacket apologize to Finch for punching her in the jaw earlier. The man wearing sunglasses was with three other men, Dennis said: a tall, light-skinned man with curly hair wearing an M&M's NASCAR jacket; a short, dark-skinned man wearing a white hooded sweatshirt; and a man she described as having "a huge Adam's apple."
Prosecutor Tim Twining asked her more about the camo jacket worn by the man with sunglasses. She said she doesn't remember exactly what color it was. Earlier, he asked Finch the same question. Clark's attorney then pointed out that there was more than one man wearing a camo jacket at the club that night; in fact, Finch said that when she was shown the sidewalk surveillance tape for the first time, she misidentified which man in camo punched her because there was more than one.
Dennis said that as she was leaving the club that night, a very tall man tried to stick his hands down the back of her pants. She said she yelled at him and told him, "I'm not like the pretty bitches he's used to fucking with and he can't touch me any way he wants," and even swung at him a couple of times. During that, the group of men who had referred to themselves earlier as "Georgia boys," including the man who'd punched Finch, came up behind her and also got into an altercation with the very tall man.
Soon after, she said, she and Finch and the rest of the people they'd come with made their way toward the Arby's on the corner of 11th Avenue and Broadway to wait for their ride to pick them up. While they were waiting, Dennis said she saw the "Georgia boy" with the big sunglasses and the camo jacket sitting in the passenger seat of a white Tahoe. She and he talked briefly, she said.
When Dennis's ride arrived, she said the Tahoe was still parked outside Arby's with its hazard lights on. A white stretch Hummer limo that had been parked directly outside the club was also still there, she said.
Dennis also reviewed the surveillance tape from outside the club and identified people she recognized, including herself, Finch and the "Georgia boy" with the big sunglasses. She also described a fight that wasn't caught on tape between one of the "Georgia boys" and one of the men in the limo. She later said the "Georgia boy" with the big sunglasses punched the man who'd groped her, which was different than what she told police earlier. Earlier, she said a man in an orange shirt punched him.
On cross-examination by defense attorney Hutt, Dennis admitted that when she saw the "Georgia boy" with the big sunglasses in the white Tahoe, the atmosphere was "chaotic." Dennis said she was on her phone, trying to find her ride, and was also tending to Finch, who had been inadvertently sprayed with mace. She also said she was drunk and high and told police she was in her "own little happy world."
Hutt also asked her about the very tall man who stuck his hands down the back of her pants. "Do you remember telling Detective (Michael) Martinez that the guy who groped you was Brandon Marshall?" Dennis became agitated. "No. I don't know the sports people. He had pictures and I picked one out. There were no names on the photos." Hutt asked a follow-up question: "Did they ever tell you that a guy admitted to doing that to you?" Dennis seemed frustrated when she answered: "No," she said.
Dennis repeatedly said she never wanted to be involved in the case. She said that's why she'd omitted details about that night the first time the police questioned her, even though she'd called the CrimeStoppers tip line to make an anonymous tip when she saw news reports about the shooting the next day on television.
12:11 p.m.: After the break, Clark's lawyers cross-examined Finch. Attorney Abraham Hutt asked Finch about initially telling the police that the "Georgia boy" who punched her in the jaw had a Southern accent. She said she didn't remember, so Hutt played a video of her police interview. In it, Finch says he had a "down-South accent, like he was from Georgia. Like I could tell he wasn't from Colorado."
Hutt also had her review surveillance tapes from outside the club again and point out people she recognized, including the "Georgia boy" and his friends. At times, Finch seemed frustrated that defense attorneys were asking her the same questions as prosecutors had, and her tone became a bit harsh.
The jury took a lunch break at noon. The trial will resume at 1 p.m.
11:18 a.m.: Before the jury is brought in this morning, at about 8:15 a.m., Judge Christina Habas hears arguments regarding the perjury charges against two witnesses -- Mario Anderson and Kataina "Markie" Jackson-Keeling -- who prosecutors say were riding in the white Tahoe used in Williams's murder. Both men told the grand jury that indicted Clark that they didn't know anything about the drive-by shooting. They were subsequently charged with perjury for, prosecutors say, lying to the grand jury.
Lawyers for both men were worried that their clients' testimony today could be used against them in their perjury cases. But Habas told them she didn't think it could. However, she added a warning. "Now," she said, "if your testimony is significantly different from what you have already testified to, at that time, it is possible that additional perjury charges could be instigated against you."
She ordered that both men testify in the trial and said they could be jailed if they don't. She said she'd give them until 10 a.m. to discuss it with their lawyers and decide whether they will comply.
The courtroom is less full than yesterday. Williams' childhood friends from Fort Worth who testified yesterday are here, as are a handful of people sitting in seats reserved for Willie Clark's family.
The jury entered at 9:20 a.m. The first witness was Tyisha Finch, a 25-year-old who was also at The Shelter nightclub on New Year's Eve 2006. She told jurors she had an altercation at the club with a dark-skinned man wearing sunglasses and a camouflage coat. He punched her in the jaw, she said, after he yelled at her sister for holding up the crowd and she confronted him. He called himself a "Georgia boy," she said.
Later, she said, he tried to apologize to her while she was waiting for her coat at the coat check. She said she again saw the "Georgia boy" with the sunglasses outside the club after let-out. While Finch's girlfriend, Raven Dennis, was having an argument with a man she said assaulted her inside the club, Finch said the "Georgia boy" came up and put his hand in his pocket, like he had a gun.
Finch also confirmed seeing a white SUV outside the club, but said she couldn't see who was inside.
When she was shown a photo array of mug shots a few days after the shooting, Finch identified Jackson-Keeling and Anderson as two of the people who were with the "Georgia boy" that night.
The jury took a break just before 10:30 a.m., and the judge brought Jackson-Keeling and Anderson back into the courtroom. Both men told her they won't testify. "I have no choice but to find you both in full contempt," Habas said. Both men were handcuffed and told they'd be heading to Denver County Jail. Habas said she'll bring them back to the courtroom every day to ask them if they've reconsidered.
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