Jury deliberating verdict in Lufkin murder trial

Defense attorney Michael Nguyen and District Attorney Clyde Herrington
Defense attorney Michael Nguyen and District Attorney Clyde Herrington
Defense attorney Michael Nguyen.
Defense attorney Michael Nguyen.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Testimony continued Friday morning in a Lufkin man's murder trial with the defendant's uncle on the stand testifying he saw Joshua Handy the night before the murder.

Handy is accused of shooting 21-year-old Jerrard Jernigan and leaving him to die on Cain Street in April 2009.

Roy Laster testified Handy used to borrow bicycles from him. He said the night before the murder his nephews came to his house to watch a basketball playoff game. He said the game ran late because it went into overtime.

Laster told prosecuting attorney, Clyde Herrington, he had been drinking the night of the basketball game. He admitted he originally lied to detectives saying someone else drove him to pick his wife up later that night. He testified he actually drove, but didn't want to tell that to police originally because his license was suspended. He told detectives his nephews are always cussing at each other. He said he told an investigator when he got back from picking his wife up, everyone was gone.

The defense called Judge Handy, the defendant's father to the stand.  He testified hearing about an incident with Edwin 'Diboll' Stripling. He said he went to speak with Stripling, a long-time friend, because, "I was fearful something bad was going to happen." The witness said he didn't hear anything else about the alleged confrontation between Stripling and his sons after their talk.

Defense attorney, Michael Nguyen called Justin Durham to the stand. Durham testified he was in Lufkin Land the day before the murder. He said he knows Handy and saw him driving a Lincoln Town Car the afternoon before the incident. Durham testified he met up with Jamarkus Dove, a witness earlier in the trial. He told the jury he was going with Dove to a friend's house. He said some friends had told him to get off the north side because "the laws were hot." He said on the way to a friend's house, they saw Handy drive by around 1:30 a.m. or 2 a.m., and again later around 3 a.m., down Kurth Drive.

Durham later testified he walked up to the murder scene and police detained him for several hours because he had been seen with a stick earlier that night. Durham said investigators checked for blood on his person. Nguyen continued questioning Durham about where and when he saw Handy pointing out there were inconsistencies between the times he testified on the stand and the statement he gave detectives.

The state began questioning Durham about going to school with Handy and Jernigan.  Durham said, "He [Jernigan] was a cool person. He didn't bother nobody." He said he basically grew up with Handy. The prosecution questioned Durham about the time and place he saw Handy.  Later, he explained to the jury he was carrying a stick the night of the incident because he had been chased by dogs the night before.

Durham said he left a friend's house in the early morning hours because his baby's mother had called him. He pointed to a map explaining on his way to his girlfriend's house he saw a "whole bunch of laws" down Cain Street.  He said police took him back to his friend's house to get the stick he was carrying earlier.  He said a detective inspected the stick for hair or blood.  Later Durham told the jury he's always been cooperative with the police in their investigation.

Kenneth Mark testified he discovered Jernigan's body on Cain Street.  He said before the incident, he had been drinking and took a walk around 9 p.m. alone, but came back with Michelle Holms.  Mark said he left his house again around 11 p.m. to get whiskey and on his way back to his house he said, "I heard someone say 'help me, please help me.'" He said he saw a young man "…lying on the ground."  Mark said he knocked on doors to get someone to call 911, but ended up jumping a fence to get to his cordless phone because no one answered their doors.

"The young man was lying on the side of the road, half on the curb, half on the road," Mark remembered. "He really wasn't moving."  Mark went on to tell the jury, "I started giving the boy CPR." He said he continued until a police officer, "…told me to stop, he was gone."

"All that I could see was blood on the ground and he had a gash on the side of his head," Mark told the jury.

Rufus Matts testified he was Jernigan's close friend and they lived in the same neighborhood.  Matts said there was a relationship between him and Willie Garza, a witness earlier in this case. Matts said he met Garza during a two-week stint in jail.

Nguyen offered a few items, including a backpack into evidence and recalled Detective Ron Stubblefield to the stand to question him about where the lockbox was found during the search warrant on the Sayers Street home.  Stubblefield said he wasn't present when the box was found, but he believed it was in a sort-of common area, not on a shelf.

Handy's attorney called DeMarcus Jenkins to the stand who said his brother Nathaniel Eclise, who stayed in the Sayers Street residence, also had a revolver.

District Judge Barry Bryan charged the jury prior to the attorneys giving their closing statements. A statement in the charge instructs the jury that they cannot convict based only upon testimony from inmates incarcerated in the same facility as Handy unless they believe the testimony to be true according to evidence.  If convicted, Handy has elected the jury to assess his punishment.

Herrington addressed the jury saying "on that night, in the street, in the gutter, he [Jernigan] lost his life." The prosecuting attorney reminded the jury of conflicting testimony from family members about Handy's whereabouts the night of the murder. Herrington took the jury back to Handy's brother's testimony where he said Handy's brother asked detectives during the search warrant, "Is that the murder weapon?"

Herrington reminded the jury of the state's witnesses that placed Handy around the scene of the crime. He walked the jury back through the night of the murder and said although the witnesses didn't want to testify, they were made to because of the actions of the defendant. Herrington closed by telling the jurors he's confident ,"The defendant here in this courtroom with his .38 revolver shot this young man and left him lying on the street."

The defense, in closing arguments, reminded the jury the state is responsible for proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. Nguyen also pointed out some of the state's witnesses had been offered plea deals. He reminded the jury Handy went to the sheriff's department to see if he has warrants. He told the jury at 20 years old Handy is taken to jail, without knowing why he is being held. Nguyen said Willie Garza, Handy's cellmate who testified in this case, lied on the stand. Handy's attorney went on to tell the jury about ulterior motives some of the state's witnesses may have had to testify against Handy. He told jurors inconsistencies in witness statements create reasonable doubt.  Nguyen concluded by telling the jury if they have even one single doubt, they have to find Handy not guilty.

Herrington addressed the jury for the final time.  He told jurors if Handy really wanted to find out what was going on, he could have gone down to the police department to talk to detectives. He addressed Nguyen's statements about witnesses testifying in exchange for a plea deal.  He talked to the jury about what he considered possible motives for the crime.  He said he thought maybe Handy's brothers were embarrassed by him because he had been seen around Jernigan or maybe he was all "wired up" on drugs. He concluded telling the jury when they look at the defendant they will see, "the last person Jerrard Jernigan saw on this Earth."

The jury began deliberating around 2:40 p. m.

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