Originally created 06/18/97

Jury hears first arguments in Hankerson brothers murder trial



A jury will decide this week if teen-ager brothers gunned down another young man and committed the first homicide of 1997.

The Richmond County Superior Court jury began hearing testimony Tuesday afternoon. Attorneys on both sides told the jury in their opening statements that the truth will have to be sorted out of the testimony.

Brothers Boise Eugene Hankerson Jr., 18, and Jason Damond Hankerson, 17, both of the 1600 block of Garlington Avenue, have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and weapon violations. They are accused of the Jan. 26 shooting death of 20-year-old Donald Grace.

Mr. Grace died while armed only with a bag of potato chips in one hand and a fistful of chips in the other, District Attorney Danny Craig said. Mr. Grace was just in the wrong place at the wrong time on the 1600 block of Douglas Street when the Hankersons were gunning for another man, Mr. Craig said.

Two women standing near Mr. Grace before the shooting started will testify that the shooters were Boise and Jason Hankerson, the prosecutor said. Although neither had good reputations, their testimony, combined with other evidence, will prove the Hankersons killed Mr. Grace, Mr. Craig said.

But defense attorney Brian Watkins told the jury the evidence will fall far short of proving guilt, and the prosecution's witnesses had motives to lie about what happened.

Both Hankersons have alibis, Mr. Watkins told the jury, and witnesses will testify where each teen-ager was during the night Mr. Grace was killed.

The first witness to testify, Lindsay Kimble, told the jury he had just brought Mr. Grace a bag of potato chips when two men came through a vacant lot. The men, whom he couldn't see clearly enough to identify, told those standing around to get out of the way, Mr. Kimble testified. When he heard the sound of guns being cocked, he ran one way up Douglas Street, and Mr. Grace turned the other direction, Mr. Kimble testified.

Testimony continues Wednesday.