Painstaking Immunity Hearing in Darius Miles Capital Murder Case to Resume Tuesday
An immunity hearing in the capital murder case against former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles will resume Tuesday morning after three hours Monday resulted in little more than injured feelings and a writ of arrest for a witness who failed to show up.
As has been exhaustively reported, Miles has been in the Tuscaloosa County Jail since January for his alleged role in the death of Jamea Harris, a 23-year-old Birmingham mother who was fatally shot by Miles' lifelong friend and co-defendant Michael Davis.
SIDEBAR AFTER SIDEBAR
The Monday afternoon hearing followed a June motion from Mile's lead defense attorney Mary Turner, who is asking Circuit Judge Daniel Pruet to dismiss the case on the grounds that Davis and Miles were afraid for their own safety and acting in self-defense.
Basically, no testimony was heard to that effect, though - the defense called nine witnesses, but three did not show up and one was not made to testify Monday.
Instead, the first two hours of the hearing were generally spent by the prosecution and defense attorneys arguing over which video surveillance footage should be admitted as evidence.
The witnesses who were called were generally custodians of surveillance video, including two bar owners on the Strip, a manager at Publix and the UAPD officer tasked with preserving body camera footage.
Turner and the defense have held from the beginning of this case that the prosecution has video evidence they have not shared with the defense. On Monday, it was the state objecting to submissions from the defense, arguing to Pruet that Turner and defense attorney Grace Prince were entering exhibits that the state had not previously reviewed.
Miles is represented by Turner, Grace and Kayla Griffin, and prosecutors included District Attorney Hays Webb and his assistant DAs Paula Whitley and Corey Seale. Proceedings were interrupted at least a dozen times for lengthy sidebar bench conferences with Pruet in hushed tones, and more often than not, all half-dozen lawyers marched up for the chats and did not hurry away to resume testimony.
In the course of around two hours of these meetings, Pruet ruled in the defense's favor in some objections and for the state and others, but another seemed to begin as soon as the last one ended, and the witnesses who were examined generally stuck to answering questions about how their surveillance systems work,
Finally, the defense finally played a 911 call from the night Harris was killed and sections of body camera footage from a UAPD officer who responded to the Walk of Champions after the shooting.
JOHNSON AND GREENE BOTH NO-SHOWS
The defense was also seeking to examine Cedric Johnson, Harris' partner and the father of her child. Johnson was driving the Jeep in which Harris was fatally shot, and he exchanged gunfire with Davis with a revolver of his own. They also subpoenaed a second man, Shu'bonte Greene, reportedly a friend to Johnson who was with him at the Strip that night.
Turner and Prince appear to be preparing to argue that Johnson, Greene and at least two other men were part of a criminal gang in Birmingham and meant to do harm to Davis. She has argued her client, Darius Miles, handed over his gun to Michael Davis on the Strip that night because they believed Johnson and his friends were going to ambush him over an earlier verbal altercation.
One of the men in the UAPD body camera footage - captured after the shooting - was heard referring to Harris and Johnson as family and talked about "natural law," and his right to harm Michael Davis over Harris' death.
Davis was shot in the shoulder by Johnson, and a man in the video told a UAPD officer that if the gunshot wound wasn't fatal, then Davis needed to plan to commit suicide before the Birmingham crew caught up with him.
But the defense has not identified or interviewed the men in the video - one of them may be dead, Turner said earlier this year. And Greene had been served a subpoena but did not show up for Monday's hearing - Pruet has issued a writ for Greene's arrest in response.
Johnson is a more complex problem because although the defense said four private investigators spend two dozen hours trying to serve him, they were never able to do so successfully. Pruet said he cannot issue a writ punishing Johnson for not obeying a subpoena he never received.
A third witness, who works with the Birmingham Police Department, also failed to obey a subpoena he was served but Pruet did not elect to issue a writ for that investigator's arrest.
Without Greene or Johnson to testify, and with no leads on the two men depciting in the body camera footage, the defense had little case to make Monday.
TURNER REPRIMANDED FOR COMMENTS
Tempers did threaten to boil over after Pruet said he heard Turner remark that the defense was "being picked on" during one od their frequent bench meetings, which the circuit judge shut down in real-time then addressed again at the end of the hearing.
Turner and Prince had been playing the UAPD bodycam footage, but the video they brought to court was almost 30 minutes long, which Pruet was not going to tolerate in his crowded, too-hot courtroom after so many previous delays.
On several occasions, Pruet asked Prince to skip to the footage relevant to the hearing and promised to review the entire half-hour video later, in private.
Turner took offense and said in 34 years of practice, she had never heard a judge ask state prosecutors to hurry through footage they thought was relevant to a hearing.
Judge Pruet told Turner to file a motion asking him to recuse himself from the case if she no longer felt he was proceeding fairly, but said in no uncertain terms that he would not tolerate further questions about his impartiality in court.
"This courtroom will be the least chaotic place in this case," Pruet said.
HEARING RESUMES TUESDAY
Monday's hearing ended without a ruling from Pruet, who issued the writ for Greene's arrest and told attorneys on both sides to be ready to pick back up Tuesday morning.
Miles was taken back to the Tuscaloosa County Jail, where he has been held without bond since January.
We will be there to cover proceedings - stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for developments as they arise.