A Richmond County Superior Court jury deliberated more than two hours before finding Christopher Smith, 26, not guilty of murder and possession of a firearm in the death of 24-year-old Doniel Hicks.
Two of the four eye-witnesses to the shooting refused to testify in court this week — one was Hicks’ close friend, Michael McCorkle, and the second was the brother of the man McCorkle is accused of killing in retaliation for Hicks’ slaying. McCorkle and Trevaughn Jones refused to tell the jury what they had told sheriff investigators because they feared being labeled as snitches, Assistant District Attorney Laura Stewart said in her closing argument.
The environment of fear and indifference must end or the killing will not stop, Stewart argued.
Defense attorney Lee Prescott of the public defender’s office argued that Smith fired at Hicks and McCorkle only after McCorkle fired first. McCorkle was the one who ran River Glen and scared everyone, Prescott said.
While the Jones brothers and other potential witnesses were at the sheriff’s office after Hicks’ slaying, the Jones’ home was shot up by McCorkle’s associates, Prescott said. Trevaughn Jones was trying to protect himself, which is reasonable all considered, Prescott said.
Smith testified Hicks robbed him at gunpoint in November 2011 and again the following month. He bought a gun to protect himself.
When he encountered Hicks and McCorkle and McCorkle pulled a gun, saying “give it up”, Smith was legally justified in shooting back, Prescott said.
But the witnesses who saw it all — Trevaughn Jones and McCorkle — told sheriff investigators Smith was the one who confronted Hicks and fired first, the prosecutor countered. And Hicks was the one who was shot in the back.
Stewart told the jury that she wasn’t trying to paint McCorkle as innocent, saying his trial will be another day.