Attorneys in Gamez case close on credibility questions

Apr. 30, 2013 @ 07:48 PM

In closing arguments Tuesday, both sides raised questions about witness credibility.

Rebecca Wiggins, attorney for 24-year-old Gabriel James Gamez, pointed to inconsistencies between what two Outback Steakhouse waitresses told police after Gamez was charged with shooting a Pennsylvania high school football player in 2011 and what those women said while preparing for trial.

They didn’t mention racial slurs uttered by Gamez when they were first questioned after the death of Darrell Turner, Wiggins said. The women also seemed inconsistent about where their conversation with Gamez occurred, either inside or outside the restaurant, the attorney said.

That, she said, shows they’re not credible.

But prosecutors in their closing arguments raised similar issues about Gamez, who testified on his own behalf on Monday.

Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols told jurors that Gamez, who said he was using a cane and limping at Outback the night of the shooting, didn’t actually need the cane. Gamez testified that he only fired three shots – and those while running backward – and yet the medical examiner reported that Turner and his friend, Thomas Woodson, were hit a total of four times in the backs of their bodies, Echols said.

Wiggins told jurors that Gamez was frightened that night, alleging that he saw someone reaching for a gun in their shorts.

"He was running backwards as he was shooting to protect himself," she said. "He indicated to you that he was scared. He saw the gun. He didn't know why it was happening."

Prosecutors insist that Gamez started a scuffle with the group of all-star high school football players, calling them racial slurs before pulling a gun and shooting at them as the players fled. It happened in front of the AT&T store in a strip mall off Mt. Moriah Road, near the Interstate 40 interchange with U.S. 15-501.

In her closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Josephine Kerr told jurors that the shooting was premeditated, deliberate and malicious.

As the players laughed and joked together, Gamez was at a restaurant across the street "spewing venom" and telling two people that he couldn't stand to live in North Carolina because black people were high and mighty, Kerr said. He showed that he had a gun, she said, and claimed that he would shoot any black person who said anything to him or his family.

"Somehow this defendant said he saw a gun and, as he was running backwards, he was able to shoot and successfully hit these young men," she said.

Kerr asked the jurors to imagine the joy that parents would feel as they saw their son running down the field, doing something great in a football game.

The Turners' memory of their son now is running out of his shoes and falling to the ground, she said.

Echols asked the jury to show Gamez that Durham won’t stand for the crimes he committed.

"What would it say about a community and a system to allow a defendant to get away with all these crimes?" Echols asked.

The jury, composed of six white women, two black women, two white men and two black men began deliberating about 2:20 p.m.

By 5 p.m., jurors had not returned with verdicts. Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner sent them home and asked them to return Wednesday morning to resume deliberations.

The main charge is the first-degree murder of Turner, but the jury could also find Gamez guilty of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or not guilty as well.

The jury must also decide whether Gamez is guilty of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, or a lesser charge or not guilty in shooting and wounding Woodson.

It will also decide whether Gamez is guilty of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for shooting at Dustin Creel, Robert Foster, Isaiah Faulk, and Jaylen Coleman, and whether he is guilty of attempted murder for shooting at the other players.