LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The third day of a Lufkin man's murder trial continues with a witness testifying he saw the defendant with a gun the night before 21-year-old Jerrard Jernigan was found dead early in the morning.
Joshua Handy is accused of shooting Jernigan in the head and leaving him to die on Cain Street in April 2009.
Ray McGowan identified Handy as the defendant in the courtroom. McGowan said he saw Handy riding a bicycle the night before Jernigan was found dead. He said him and a friend were walking when they saw Handy. He told the jury a car passed them as they were walking. He testified a person in the car cussed at them and when the car passed, Handy pulled a gun and "…shot in the air." McGowan said Handy was wired and could've been smoking something.
District Attorney Clyde Herrington questioned McGowan about the gun he claims he saw Handy pull out.
"It was small, like a revolver, a chrome revolver," McGowan said. Herrington held up a gun in evidence and McGowan said, "I can't just say it's the pistol, but it was chrome, yeah."
He said he also saw Handy the day after Jernigan was murdered.
Handy's attorney, Michael Nguyen, questioned the witness if he had seen anyone on wet before, a drug the state suspected Handy was on the night of Jernigan's murder.
"I could tell he had been on something is all," McGowan said.
Nguyen questioned McGowan about the bike Handy was riding and if he were wearing a backpack. McGowan said he wasn't wearing a backpack. He then tried to walk the jury through what he remembered Handy wearing the night he saw him.
Nguyen questioned the witness about going to Lolitha Robbins house after he heard about Jernigan's death. Nguyen asked him if he went to console Robbins because she was friends with Jernigan, he said he went to smoke weed with her. Nguyen pointed out that he didn't give a statement to authorities until much after the incident happened. The defense then pointed out that the witness has pending cases and has already been sentenced to 30 years for assaulting a police officer. However, McGowan said the state wasn't really able to help him out in his cases and he was subpoenaed to testify.
The state called James Mask, an inmate at the Angelina County Jail to testify late Wednesday morning. He said he heard Handy talk about his involvement with a murder. He said he overheard at church Handy talking to another inmate. He testified Handy was telling another inmate how he and his brother had gotten into a fight because his brother had said he was messing around. Mask testified Handy said "He just crept up behind him and he shot him in the head." When Mask was asked if he heard anything about the weapon used he said, "If I'm not mistaken a 380 or a .38."
Mask again told the jury, "He [Handy] said I walked up behind him and I shot him in the head." He said he overheard Handy tell the inmate he left from there and went to the house, took off his clothes and put them in a dumpster. Mask said, "He [Handy] said he buried the pistol and his brother dug it up."
Mask said he overheard, Handy was having trouble sleeping and he heard Handy say he was smoking "what they call Wet."
Mask said he eventually told investigators about what he heard, but he said at first he didn't want to get involved, but a fellow inmate, John Armstead said what if that was one of his family members. Armstead testified Tuesday afternoon in this same murder trial. Mask said he and Armstead requested to talk to a detective about the situation.
Herrington pointed out he faces prison time for aggravated robbery and he pointed out that Mask hasn't been promised anything in exchange for his testimony.
In Nguyen's questioning, he pointed out Mask is charged with sexual assault of a child. The defense asked Mask about collaborating with Armstead to get a lighter sentence for their offenses, but Mask said, "No we didn't, we didn't come together. He wrote the letter and asked me to read it and sign it."
Mask said he thought if it had been one of his family members he'd want someone to come testify on his behalf. He said his testimony was not based on getting a deal.
Late Wednesday morning the defense played a video of Mask's conversation with detectives from the Lufkin Police Department. The detective in the tape told Mask whatever information he gave investigators, he would pass along to the district attorney's office, but the detective said he wasn't there to make deals.
In the taped conversation, Mask tells detectives they overheard Handy discuss a murder that happened, "on the northside." Mask told detectives, "The dude was gay, the one that was killed…"
Mask said he overheard Handy say he walked up behind the victim and, "shot him in the head…" Mask said he heard Handy say he buried the gun, and his brother dug it up and took it to Jasper and bought a 9 mm. Mask said he further understood the 9mm was the one police had. Mask said he heard the bullets in the lock box were up on the shelf.
In the tape Mask said later Jemarcus Dove, the inmate talking to Handy in church, confirmed the story he had overheard.
When detectives in the tape questioned Mask about coming forward, he said even if the victim was gay, "Just to kill somebody just because of that…"
Mask went on to tell detectives he wasn't worried or scared of Handy, it was Handy's brothers that concerned him some for his family's sake because he said Handy's brothers had a reputation. When detectives asked what that reputation was he said, "The kind that uses their guns."
After the tape was played, Nguyen questioned Mask in detail about speaking with other inmates about the story he heard. Nguyen also worked to try to get Mask to establish a timeline about when he supposedly overheard the conversation.
The state called Angelina County Jail inmate Jamarkus Dove, 21, to testify. He said he grew up with Handy and they used to play football together. He said Handy talked to him about his murder case in church.
"I could tell there was something bothering him," Dove said.
Dove said they just got to talking and "that's when he told me." Dove went on to say he asked Handy if he did it and he was "quiet at first and then he just came out and told me, yeah." He said he asked Handy if he killed Jerrard Jernigan. He said the defendant said yes. Dove testified Handy told him he got into an altercation with his brother and later he got high and said the incident happened by the tunnel. Dove said the tunnel comes out on Cain Street. Jernigan's body was found on Cain Street.
Dove said Handy told him after the incident, "…he went back home and he washed his hands or whatever… He said he left and went to highpoint and he put his clothes in the dumpster." He said Handy didn't talk about the details. However, he said the weapon that was used in the crime he thought had been switched out. When Herrington asked if Dove knew what gun Handy took to shoot Jerrard Jernigan? Dove responded, "a .38."
Dove explained to the jury that he was hanging out with friends the night Jernigan was found dead.
Dove went on to say Jernigan "…was like a friendly person, he didn't bother people." Dove testified, "I don't understand why he got his life took…I just think it was wrong…To me he was a kind-hearted person."
Testimony Wednesday afternoon continued with heightened security at the courthouse out of concern for some witnesses testifying in the trial. Dove told the jury Handy "…told me his shoe had got stuck." Dove testified he saw Handy driving a truck around the time of the incident. Dove said, "He [Handy] was just like driving reckless…where he was headed, I can't tell you."
Dove is currently in jail for aggravated robbery. Herrington pointed that out in exchange for his truthful testimony, the district attorney's office has offered him a reduced sentence for the aggravated robbery.
Nguyen questioned Dove about the night of the incident. He said the day before the murder occurred, he was with his cousin Justin Durham. He said he had been hanging out with a friend playing dominos. Dove said he was high on embalming fluid when he was walking with Durham down a Lufkin street around the time of the incident to get to his friend's house. He said he was at a friend's house for about 30 minutes when Durham's baby's mother called. He said Durham left the house walking after two police cars drove down Kurth Drive. He said he was concerned and wanted someone to drive Durham because he said sometimes the police will stop people if they look suspect.
Dove testified Durham later called him and was trying to tell him something, but the phone got disconnected so Dove said he turned his phone off. He said Durham called another cousin and told him the police had questioned him about the murder.
Dove said he turned himself in for aggravated robbery. Nguyen continued questioning Dove about his statement to detectives. Nguyen asked Dove, "It's your understanding that because he [Handy] was called slow, and stupid, and some homosexual name that Joshua Handy got upset." Dove responded, "yes." Dove went on to say, he remembered Handy saying his shoe had got stuck in the mud.
Dove said he was told Handy's brothers beat him up. Dove said he was keeping some of his belongings at Handy's house a long-time before the murder, but he wasn't staying there. He said he saw Handy driving his blue truck down Kurth Drive the night of the murder.
Dove said he didn't ask for Handy's story in jail, "…he [Handy] approached me with it. So I listened to him."
Dove said Armstead and Mask told him they overheard. Nguyen asked Dove if he testified just because he was expecting a deal. Dove said he was not expecting anything, "I'm going to do my own time." He pointed out he's doing time regardless of his testimony.
Nguyen asked Dove when he heard about the allegation that he took "a cell phone from the dude." Dove said Handy had accused him of taking Jernigan's cell phone, so Dove said he told detectives about what Handy told him.
"You want to play ball, then we can play it," said Dove.
Herrington asked Dove if he was at Handy's house when the search warrant was executed on the Sayers Street home. Dove testified he was there after the murder happened and police arrested him. He said they told him they were taking him into custody because of traffic warrants.
Dove said he didn't want to testify in this case. He said, "I don't want to see nobody locked up." However, Dove said since Handy put his name out there, it wasn't as hard to come forward about what Handy had told him.
The state called Willie Garza to the stand, Handy's former cellmate. Garza said Handy told him he was high on PCP the day of the murder. He said he told Handy to stop telling people what happened because they can testify against him. Garza said Handy told inmates "that he was just tripping that day on PCP…" Garza said Handy explained, "…that punk was saying stuff about him and he didn't want anybody to know…he said he confronted Jernigan about it…" Garza went on to testify, "[Handy] didn't mean to kill him. He shot him, but didn't mean to kill him." When Herrington asked Garza if Handy talked about the murder weapon, Garza said, "He said he had a .38 special."
Garza told the jury Handy said police found a gun at his house, but it wasn't the gun. He said Handy claimed the murder weapon was taken to Jasper and he got a 9 mm. Garza said Handy told him he put the gun at his house to throw detectives off.