Damion Stokes murder trial

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2012

Attorneys drop hints of trial’s game plan

By Billy Davis

Assistant District Attorney Jay Hale told potential jurors Monday that capital murder defendant Damion Stokes did not pull the trigger of the gun that killed Ira Phillips but he participated in the act.  

Hale was standing before a jury pool of approximately 200 late Monday morning in Sardis, where the attorney was describing the murder trial that a seated jury would hear a short time later.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“You may have heard the phrase that an act of one is an act of all,” Hale said, likening the murder charge against Stokes and others to the driver of a car who participates in a store robbery.

Stokes is not accused of personally killing Phillips but he acted with others to plan and execute his death, said Hale.

“In fact,” Hale continued, “you will hear from the shooter himself.”

It was unclear what role Stokes allegedly played in Phillips’ killing in Crenshaw, but Hale said in the courtroom that three other co-defendants are all accused of murder.

The attorney did not name the alleged triggerman but did name the co-defendants: Michael Vincent Ruffin, JaQuentin Lawson and Derrick Dunston, all of Crenshaw.

Circuit Judge Jimmy McClure, reading the indictment for potential jurors, said Stokes and his co-defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit murder and capital murder.

After Hale spoke to the jury pool, defense attorney Larry Maxey confessed to jurors that his client had made a confession to authorities.

Maxey, Stokes’ public defender, suggested a defendant can make a false confession to authorities and he asked for a show of hands from potential jurors who agree.

Selection of 12 jurors and two alternates gobbled up the entire morning Monday, spilling past noon.

McClure dutifully quizzed jurors about potential conflicts with attorneys, the defendant and co-defendants and their families, law enforcement officials, and potential witnesses.

Hale also cautioned the jury pool about being seated as a juror with conflicts that may arise later during the trial.

“It’s pointless if the jury is tainted by someone for or against the defendant or the victim,” Hale said.
A second murder trial is scheduled for next week, also in Sardis, following the Stokes trial this week.