Darrent Williams murder trial, day nine: Willie Clark's team gets defensive

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, day seven and day eight.

5:28 p.m.: After the break, Denver police Detective Shane Webster testified. His testimony was short. Webster said he spoke with Daniel "PT" Harris on the phone on January 17, 2007, when Harris -- who was the only witness to testify that he saw Clark pull the trigger -- was in Mexico. Webster said Harris told him that he'd been in the car when Darrent Williams was shot but wasn't the shooter.

Harris said he wanted to come back to Denver the next day and talk to the police, but he was afraid of being arrested, Webster said. When Webster told Harris there was no warrant out for his arrest in connection with the shooting, Webster said he seemed more cooperative.

"Have you ever had a suspect tell you something to your face that was intentionally dishonest?" Cantor asked.

"Yes," Webster said.

Cantor also asked Webster whether Harris seemed earnest. Webster said he did. Harris didn't end up flying back the next day; he stayed in Mexico for five to six months.

Gabriel Cuadrado testified next, followed by his wife, Erica Cuadrado. In 2006, they were neighbors of Clark's cousin, Genee Howard, who lived by Curtis Park. On New Year's Eve, both Cuadrados said they stopped by Howard's house for five to ten minutes around 9 p.m. to say hello. Clark was there by himself, they said; there were no other young black men with him. Neither Cuadrado said they saw Clark wearing a bulletproof vest or carrying a gun, as other witnesses have reported.

After the Cuadrados, a woman named Zandria Britt took the stand. In 2006, she was dating Felix Abram, a close friend of Harris's who has already testified in this case. Britt said that on New Year's Eve, Abram was driving her 1999 light green Ford Expedition.

After the shooting, Britt said the police contacted her about her Expedition because it had been seen at the Safari club before the shooting. Britt said she drove the Expedition to her police interview. "Did they tell you they needed to hang on to it to search it?" Hutt asked.

"No, sir," Britt said. Clark's attorneys have said that a green SUV, not a white SUV, was seen in the area of the shooting and have questioned the thoroughness of the police detectives' investigation into it.

A woman named Jacqueline Larkins testified next. On New Year's Eve, she and her then-boyfriend Ben went to the Safari club. Her boyfriend was friends with Harris, Felix Abram and Felix's cousin, Henderson Abram, all of whom have testified. After the club let out, Larkins said she and her boyfriend went almost immediately to her boyfriend's truck. But on the way there, she said she was hit by mace.

She said she remembers seeing the Abrams on foot near the club but doesn't remember them ever getting into her boyfriend's truck. When she and Ben left the club, she said they went to a gas station, though she doesn't know which one. She said she doesn't remember Felix Abram being there. Abram previously testified that his "white homeboy, Ben" gave him a ride to his car that night.

After Larkins, Stacey Mora took the stand. Mora said she met Clark in late 2006 through her friend Melanie, who is related to Clark. On New Year's Eve, Mora said she also went to the Safari club. She didn't hang out with Clark inside, she said, but she did see him later at Mama's Kitchen on Colfax.

Mora said she doesn't remember exactly when she got to Mama's Kitchen; it could have been anytime between 2 and 3:30 a.m. After she got there, Clark showed up, she said. "I scooted over so he could sit down next to me," Mora said. He seemed happy, she said, and was acting normal.

At some point, one of the people at their table got a text message about Williams being killed. Clark didn't react any differently than anyone else at the table, Mora said. "He said, 'What happened? What's going on?' Like everybody else," she said.

Mora said Clark left before she did and said something about maybe coming back later. But he never returned, she said.

Mora was the last witness of the day. The jurors were dismissed at 4:30 p.m.

After they left, Judge Christina Habas dealt with two reluctant witnesses -- one of whom changed his mind. Julian Vigil, who had told the judge he wouldn't testify, agreed to do so. He'd previously said he feared for his family's safety, partly because his house had recently been broken into and his grand jury transcript in this case stolen. Vigil was being held in jail for contempt of court; when he appeared before the judge today, it was in handcuffs. Habas cleared the contempt charge and ordered Vigil to come back on Monday. He will likely testify as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution.

Twining indicated that Vigil will testify that Clark confessed to him that he killed Williams.

But another witness, Marquise Harris, has now said he's reluctant to testify. Harris is a former prison mate of Clark's who says he intercepted a letter that Clark wrote, confessing to shooting out of a car that night. He turned the letter over to the police and the Rocky Mountain News, which published it. Harris is speaking with an attorney and will have until Monday to decide whether he will testify.

Lastly, Habas asked Clark whether he'd made his mind up about testifying in his own case.

"No, I'm undecided," Clark said.

Habas asked him what it would take for him to make a decision.

"I really want to see how the rest of our witnesses go," he said.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Monday.

3:04 p.m.: After lunch, Richard Post testified. He's an expert in firearms and ballistics who reviewed the evidence in the case at the request of Clark's attorneys. He said he agrees with the prosecution's witnesses that at least two different firearms were fired by at least two different people into Williams's limo. Those witnesses said a .40 caliber and a .45 caliber were used.

Firing a gun less than a foot away from somebody's face -- not pointed at their face, but past it -- can cause injuries, Post said; those injuries could include burns, cuts and bruising. That scenario could also cause near-permanent hearing damage, he said, especially if the gun were fired in an enclosed car.

Prosecutors say that Clark reached across his passenger in the white Tahoe, Kataina "Markie" Jackson-Keeling, and fired a .40 caliber handgun out Jackson-Keeling's window into Williams' limo. Clark's lawyers have asked several witnesses who know Jackson-Keeling whether they noticed if he had any hearing loss or facial burns in the days after the murder. So far, most witnesses have said no. Jackson-Keeling and the other alleged passenger, Mario Anderson, have thus far refused to testify in the case.

On cross-examination, Levin asked Post whether he could give an opinion on whether the passenger in the Tahoe would have been injured without knowing exactly his position. For example, the passenger could have been turned away, covering his face, Levin said. Post said he couldn't.

Levin also asked him to offer an opinion on which gun likely fired the deadly bullet.

"Assume the driver is the person firing the .40 caliber (gun), fact one," Levin said. "Fact two: Removed from the exit wound of the victim is .40 caliber jacket. You can conclude that that .40 caliber gun being shot by the driver fired the round that killed the victim?"

"No, sir," Post said.

The court took an afternoon break at 2:55 p.m. The trial will resume at 3:15.

12:46 p.m.: On cross-examination of Johnson, prosecutor Tim Twining asked whether he ever saw a white Hummer limo pulled off on the side of Speer. Johnson said no. "Never saw it?" Twining asked.

"No," he said.

Twining also questioned Johnson's knowledge of cars. In his initial police report made on January 1, 2007, Johnson described the SUV as a "Dodge Explorer." "Are you sure that Dodge even makes an Explorer?" Twining asked.

"To tell you the truth, no," Johnson said.

Jazelle Hudson testified next. She described herself as Clark's cousin, though they're not related by blood and don't see each other often. For the first time, Hudson laid out Clark's alibi. She said that after the let-out at the Safari club, she saw Clark at an after-hours club on 18th Avenue and Glenarm Street.

On New Year's Eve 2006, Hudson said she went to a club called The Beyond on 16th Street and Glenarm with her cousin Tanisha. When The Beyond closed, Hudson said she and her cousin went to the let-out at the Safari club so they could say hello to some relatives who were there. While there, she said she saw Clark. "I just asked him where he was going," Hudson said. He seemed happy, she said.

Hudson said she was "real drunk" that night and doesn't remember seeing where Clark went after that. But when she and Tanisha got to the after-hours club, she said she saw Clark outside. "He pulled in at the same time we did," she said. "I was messing with him. I was telling him he had a nice truck and he should let me borrow it." When asked what kind of truck, Hudson said it was a black Range Rover.

"How sure are you that it wasn't white?" asked defense attorney Darren Cantor.

"I'm positive it wasn't white," she said.

She said they stayed in the after-hours club until it closed, dancing. When they left, she said she saw Clark outside again in his truck. "I think he was flirting with some girl or something," she said. Hudson said she didn't talk to Clark again, and that she and Tanisha went to a diner on Colfax Avenue. Clark didn't go with them, she said.

"Miss Hudson, would you come in here and take the oath and lie for Willie Clark?" Cantor asked.

"No," she said emphatically.

On cross-examination, Twining questioned what time Hudson arrived at the after-hours club and saw Clark. He said she previously told the police she got there at around 3 a.m. (Prosecutors say Williams was shot around 2:15 a.m.) "I don't know. I didn't have a watch on," Hudson said. She admitted that she doesn't remember how long she hung out in front of the Safari club and said that once they left, they circled the block several times and stopped somewhere on Speer so Hudson could go to the bathroom.

Hudson said she doesn't remember what clothes Clark was wearing that night but she remembers that he was wearing big sunglasses. Several other witnesses have said the same.

Twining also asked Hudson why she waited five months after the police contacted her to talk to them. "I have a life," she said.

The court took a lunch break at 12:30 p.m. The trial will resume at 1:30.

11:10 a.m.: This morning at 9:45, Clark's defense attorneys started to present their case. Their first witness was a woman named Malia Calip. On New Year's Eve 2006, Calip said she was working as a security guard at Club Vinyl near 10th Avenue and Broadway. At let-out, she said she responded to an altercation between two groups of women in front of the Safari club across the street. A short, light-skinned man she described as "Arabian" was within one of the groups of women. Calip said she maced the two groups, including the man, to break up the fight. She said she then saw the man get into the passenger seat of a green Ford Explorer in the parking lot of the Arby's down the block.

Calip said she remembers that a tall black man wearing a white shirt and a white hat was also part of the altercation. She said she saw him get into a white stretch limo that was parked in front of the Safari club behind the Hummer limo that Williams was riding in that night.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Bruce Levin asked Calip whether she was ever able to identify for the police the light-skinned "Arabian" man when she was shown a photo lineup. Calip said no.

Darryl Honor, who owns the security company Calip worked for and was also working at Club Vinyl that night, testified next. Honor said he also responded to the altercation outside the Safari club, and that he saw the green SUV drive off about a minute or so after the white Hummer limo, taking the same path southward on Broadway and right on 10th. "You never said anything [to the police] about a white SUV?" Hutt asked.

"No, sir," said Honor, who added that he never saw a white SUV outside the club. Prosecutors say Clark was driving a white Chevy Tahoe when he shot into Williams' limo.

On cross-examination, Honor said he wasn't certain that the green SUV turned onto 10th. It could have turned into the Diamond Shamrock gas station on the corner of 10th and Broadway, he said.

Robert Fuller, an investigator for the Denver district attorney's office, testified next that when he interviewed Honor on February 15 of this year, Honor told him that one of his security guards made a call on his radio that the green SUV was might have been associated with a person who possibly had a gun.

The next witness was a man named Jason Johnson. At around 2:15 a.m. on New Year's Day 2007, Johnson said he was on the ninth-floor deck of the condominium complex where he lived near 11th Avenue and Speer Boulevard, giving his dogs a little exercise. "When I was standing there, I heard what sounded like firecrackers," Johnson said. "I estimated eight to ten fireworks was what I heard."

Johnson said he made his way to the edge of the deck and looked down onto Speer. A brown or green SUV traveling northbound caught his eye, he said. "What drew my attention to that vehicle was that it was traveling at a high rate of speed," he said. He said it may have had its lights off.

"I know you've been asked a lot of questions about the color of that car. Was it white?" Hutt said.

"No," Johnson said.

Williams's limo was shot near the intersection of 11th and Speer.

The court took a break at 11 a.m. The trial will resume at 11:15.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar