Witness at Lufkin capital murder trial says he was pressured to make false statements

Witness at Lufkin capital murder trial says he was pressured to make false statements
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Rakeem (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Rakeem (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Day three of the capital murder trial for Rakeem Rhodes, the man accused in the June 12, 2013, shooting death of 60-year-old Albert Hodge began with testimony from a man that said he was with him the night of the murder.

Prior to the first witness taking the stand, lawyers for the state and the defense discussed the possibility of testimony from Larry Mitchell from the previous day being impeached. This motion was overturned, and Inselmann said he would allow an interrogation video of Mitchell to be played to show that he testified conflicting things.

JaBryant Davis, a long-time friend of Rhodes, was in the middle of testimony Tuesday when he requested a lawyer to consult his rights. Al Charanza was appointed to represent Davis. At that point, Inselmann recessed the court proceedings until Wednesday morning.

Testimony from Davis continued with the prosecutor asking him how he knew Rhodes, and if he saw him the night of the murder.

"I have known him for about five years now," Davis said. "The night of the 13th, I dropped him off at a car wash on Kurth Dr."

Davis was asked to remember what Rhodes was wearing the night he saw him, he said that he remembers he had on all black clothing, but no gloves or bandanas. At this point, he told the jury he felt pressured to give false testimony from law enforcement about the night of the murder.

"He kept asking me the same thing, basically pressuring me to say something I didn't do," Davis said. "I did tell the investigator that I took Rakeem to Center, but I didn't do it."

He explained he felt the investigator who interviewed him about the night of June 13th pressured him into telling him that he took Rhodes to Center.

"He asked me if I had seen [minor] and Rakeem have an argument, and I told him I saw it, but I didn't," Davis said.

Perez asked Davis if he remembers telling an investigator he saw an argument that night in Center.

"I told him there was an argument. He asked me over and over if I had seen a fire. I said no," Davis said. "He asked me again if I saw a fire five times, and I finally said, 'Okay fine I saw a fire, but that was a lie!'"

Perez clarified to the jury that it was true he dropped Rhodes off at a carwash on Kurth drive on the night of the crime. In cross examination, Tunnel asked Davis if he felt pressured during the interrogation video to which he says yes.
"In the video he talked to you for about 20-30 minutes. he brought up parole, your past and maybe made you feel like they had some power over this situation?" Tunnel asked.

This is when Davis again repeated he felt like he was forced to give false testimony.

"He put it like, 'If you don't say what you have to say, you aren't coming home,'" Davis said. "You have been doing good. 'How long you been in the system?' and I told him January."

Davis said he went on that if he did the right thing, that he could tell parole, but if he didn't he would have to go back to the drawing board. Cross-examination continued to ask if Davis felt this lawyer influenced him to say a lot of things that weren't true to which he answered yes.

"So, you didn't go to Center; you were never with Mr. Boyd; none of that happened, but you told lawyers it did because you felt pressured," Tunnel said.

Tunnel outlined what happened since he took the stand Tuesday, and he explained that he signed an immunity agreement stating he could not be prosecuted for this case unless he makes a false or misleading statement. The court took a recess to counsel not in the presence of the jury.

Following the recess Standridge, the lead detective at LPD, was recalled to the stand and asked if he remembered interviewing Larry Mitchell, the barber who testified Tuesday and refused to answer questions regarding this case. Perez offered into evidence the interview between Mitchell and an officer to which Tunnel objected and was overruled.

"I feel the statements made by a video, which is hearsay is not accurate representation, the video is being made for impeachment purposes only. It is only being shown represent inconsistencies. from the previous day's testimony," Inselmann said.

Standridge was present to watch the interrogation video of Mitchell who was identified as cutting Rhodes' hair the night of the crime said was said to reach out to investigators about giving a statement.

The video was played in part, and it showed that Mitchell did see Rhodes the night of the murder, despite not testifying to that on the stand Tuesday. Standridge was cross-examined following the video.

"Officer, didn't that man say he wanted a lawyer?" Tunnel said.

Standridge said he said asked if he would need a lawyer to which he told him no because he was not a suspect in this case.

"Do you have any earthly idea about his criminal records? And if not, aren't you the lead investigator? so why don't you know?" Tunnel said. 
Standridge said he personally had not worked any cases pertaining to Mitchell. Tunnel read a list of just some of the witness' record from the last 10 years, following this subject to recall once again.

Meghan Blackburn the, supervisor of the latent print section of the Texas Department of Public Safety, took the stand and explained the process in regard to of a latent print she attempted to identify in relation to this case to which she could not.

Three different forensic scientists took the stand and testified that after they reviewed evidence presented to them from the crime scene they were not able to collect any DNA evidence that placed Rhodes to the scene of the crime.

Sgt. Stephen Abbott, a police officer with the Lufkin Police Department, was the next witness called to the stand and was asked to describe his participation with the investigation of Rhode's involvement in the death of Hodge.

"When I spoke with Kenneth Boyd, I was able to retrieve a gun in 2015 that is believed to be the gun that killed Albert Hodge," Abbott said. "After I spoke with Kenny, I actually went to the house in Shelby County that we believed held more information about the crime. We stepped through the forest believed to be land that the gun was buried on, and we were led to a beer can marking the place where he left it."
Abbott said that before he could ask Boyd not to tamper with anything he dug into a hole and retrieved a diaper that he threw towards Abbott's feet. The jury was shown photographs from the day they retrieved the gun.

"It was a Smith and Wesson with built-in laser sight built into the side of the gun that would emit a small red dot if used," Abbott said. "There were two things that I knew to look for, a .380-caliber and a infrared laser that a witness said she saw travel across the victim's body before she watched him shot."
In cross-examination, Abbott told Tunnel that the gun believed to be the murder weapon was stolen in the spring of 2013.

Shane Windsor, a Texas Department of Public safety crime lab technician, said he is trained to identify firearm and tool markings, and he testified that he was asked to examine a Smith and Wesson, three fired bullets, and three cartridge cases.

"At the time of my examination, the Smith and Wesson firearm was not working, however I was able to make it function as it normally should," Windsor said. "After that, I test-fired in our range and compared the test fires to the submitted evidence."

He said he was able to identify that all of the submitted evidence was fired from the same Smith and Wesson pistol. He step by step explained where each bullet was found at the crime scene and that they were all found to be fired from the presumed murder weapon.

Following testimony from the firearm and tool markings expert, the state rested.

The trial will resume Thursday at 9 a.m.

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