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Testimony resumes today in the Florida trial of Laquan Barrow, Michael Smith, and Gary King. All three men are all facing second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges related to a shooting outside the Cloud 9 night club in Ocala.
Benetria Robinson, 19, died outside the club of gunshot wounds to her head and shoulder, police and court records indicate. Five others were injured. Nathaniel Kendrick, 35, suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. Danielle Kendrick, 28, and Dontarious Bartley, 19, were both shot in the back. Thomia Wadley, 21, and Danvinist Blunt, 22, were shot both in the leg.
By the close of testimony Thursday, witnesses had implicated all three defendants as triggermen in the shooting, though the conflicting testimony of at least one witness could pose problems for the prosecution.
Witness Danielle Kendrick, who was among the victims, said defendant Laquan Barrow shot her brother and then her outside the club.
Witness Melissa Hall said she saw Barrow fire his gun. She also saw Smith at the club, but didn’t see him fire a gun. She didn’t pick Smith or King from a photo lineup during the police investigation.
Witness Ebony Youmans testified that she saw Smith hand Barrow a gun and later saw both Smith and Barrow fire shots. She didn’t see King until after the shooting.
Witness Nathaniel Kendrick, who was the most seriously wounded of the victims, said he saw Smith, King, and Barrow firing shots. Defense attorneys questioned his credibility. During the police investigation, he didn’t identify King or Smith as shooters, though he did identify Barrow. When questioned about the discrepancy, Kendrick said he was originally questioned by police after being in a coma for more than a month and after undergoing a series of surgeries. “I will never forget the face of a person trying to kill me,” he snapped back at defense attorney Candace Hawthorne after being questioned about his failure to previously name all three gunmen. Hawthorne is representing defendant Smith. At one point, Kendrick allowed prosecutors to refresh his memory with previous statements in the case, but refused attempts by the defense to do the same thing. Defense attorneys suggested that was evidence of bias.
Wednesday, key witness Christopher Jones refused to tell the truth on the witness stand. The judge sentenced him to six months in jail on a charge of contempt of court. In previous statements to investigators, Jones implicated Barrow as a shooter, King as having a silver gun in his waist band, but does not appear to have implicated Smith in the crime. The jury didn’t hear any of it, though, because Jones refused to accept the oath to tell the truth. (wattch the judge holding Jones in contempt of court here.)
Another key witness recanted his previous identification of Laquan Barrow as one of the shooters. Dontarious Bartley, who was among the five who were injured, claims he gave the original identification of Barrow because he was being pressured by police. He told the jury he “lied” during his police interview and was “telling [the police] what they want to hear.” However, Bartley failed to indicate how police were pressuring him other than to say officers were asking him questions after he returned from emergency surgery and was on medication. Police testified that he was completely coherent when he made the original identification.
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