A Douglas County jury will resume deliberations Monday morning in the first-degree murder trial of a Kansas City, Kan., man accused of shooting and killing a Lawrence hip-hop artist in 2006.
Prosecutors during the five-day trial accused Durrell Jones, 26, of killing Anthony “Clacc” Vital, 28, to collect on a drug debt.
“Only one person had the gun in his hands on Oct. 14 in the nighttime hours,” chief assistant district attorney Amy McGowan said during closing arguments Friday afternoon. “And only one person shot Anthony Vital while he was defenseless.”
But Jones’ defense attorney John Kerns said the evidence was inconsistent and that a co-defendant, Major C. Edwards Jr., 31, who pleaded to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, was trying to pin the shooting on Jones.
“Getting years off whatever he pled to was just gravy, that’s what he’s trying to tell you,” Kerns told jurors.
A jury of 11 women and one man deliberated about 90 minutes on Friday. The jury has the option of convicting Jones of premeditated first-degree murder, intentional second-degree murder or finding him not guilty.
Prosecutors presented evidence, including cell phone records and DNA evidence, they said corroborated Edwards’ testimony. He had said Jones pulled a gun on him and Vital in a car Edwards drove that night. Edwards said he had agreed to take Jones to pick up Vital because Jones wanted Vital to pay him for a bottle of PCP Jones had fronted him about a month before.
But Edwards said Jones pulled out the gun and directed Edwards to keep driving until Jones told him to pull over about two miles west of Lawrence on a rural driveway.
Edwards has said the three bailed out of the car in a hurry and Vital ran into Jones, who shot him three times. They left the body there as Edwards said Jones threatened him, and they returned to a party at a Lawrence apartment on Sixth Street.
Edwards then left town because he said he feared Jones would come after him. Officers arrested him days later in Mississippi.
McGowan told jurors that testimony and physical evidence backs up Edwards’ version of events, including DNA evidence found near the body linked both to Edwards and Vital.
But Kerns said prosecutors could not determine how the items linked to Jones, a Neosporin cap and an unsmoked Moore cigarette, at the scene got there. He said Edwards had been driving several people around Lawrence for several days in a borrowed car and the items could have fallen out.
He also questioned why Edwards, who said he was held at gunpoint in the car, entered a plea in the case.
“Is that a crime? Does that based on your common sense tell you that that’s a crime?” Kerns said.
Edwards testified he was remorseful for leading Jones to Vital when he knew Jones had a gun.
McGowan said witnesses who saw Jones earlier that day linked him to the alleged murder weapon, not Edwards.
“There has not been a shred of evidence to show it was in Major Edwards’ hands,” McGowan said, “not a shred of evidence to show that anyone else other than Durrell Jones had a motive to kill Anthony Vital.”