White and Antoine Watts are accused of killing Harvey Edison during the course of a robbery in May 2006 at the victim’s home on Avenue H. The victim’s family asked Talladega County District Attorney Steve Giddens not to seek the death penalty in this case.
Donald McCain, who said Edison was his best friend, spent most of the day lifting weights in a shed next to Edison’s trailer. He admitted that he has been convicted of distribution of a controlled substance and is incarcerated on that charge.
He and Edison were sitting on the front porch of the trailer when they saw White and Watts in a red sports utility vehicle pulling into the back of Knoxville Cemetery after driving up and down Avenue H. Out of curiosity, he said, Edison pointed a flashlight at the vehicle.
About 10 minutes later, he testified, they left the graveyard and drove back down Avenue H, then came back a second time and backed into a space across from Edison’s front door. White got out of the driver’s side holding something shiny in his hand, which turned out to be a gun, a silver .38 special. He came around behind Edison, pointed the gun at his head and said “give it up.”
McCain stood up, at which point Watts got out of the passenger side of the vehicle carrying a black .357 magnum. He added he had known both defendants for most of their lives, and White had cut his hair on occasion.
McCain said Watts backed him into the trailer, into the kitchen, where he took a Tupperware container filled with change.
When they went back to the front porch, White and Edison were “tussling.” A railing on the porch broke and Edison fell through. White put his foot in Edison’s back and pointed the gun at his head again. McCain called for White to leave Edison alone, to which, he said, White replied “bitch, we’re fixing to kill you all.”
McCain testified both White and Watts made threats, and Watts told White they would have to be killed since their victims knew who they were.
White and Watts began to argue among themselves, and while McCain said he could not be certain, he believed they were arguing over the large gun. Seizing the chance, McCain ran, and although one shot was fired toward him, he was not hit. After running a short distance and collapsing, he said heard two more shots.
After getting no response at the first house he knocked on, McCain was eventually able to get into another residence and call 911.
The first shot, that McCain believes was intended for him, awoke Juanita Nicole Kidd, aka Nicole Cunningham, Edison’s girlfriend, who was asleep inside the trailer at the time. She turned off the television and said she could hear arguing. After creeping out to the kitchen and looking out the window, she said she saw Edison and White (who she says she has known since childhood) fighting and noticed where the porch railing was broken. She saw Watts only from behind.
After retreating into the bedroom and laying on the floor, she said she could hear Edison begging for his life. She said she heard the third man saying, “We got to go ahead and kill him, he knows us.” Then she heard two gunshots.
She saw the vehicle before it drove off.
After finding Edison’s cell phone under the porch (there was no landline), she called 911 to report Edison had been shot and did not appear to be breathing. She mentioned White by name to the dispatcher and gave a vehicle description.
Police officers were already on their way to respond to McCain’s shots fired call when Cunningham’s call came in.
When Cunningham was shown a photograph of Edison’s body and asked to identify it, she broke down in tears.
A state forensics expert testified that a comparison between the bullets recovered from Edison’s body could not conclusively be matched to the .357, but definitely did not come from the .38. In fact, there was a bent rod in the .38 that prevented it from firing reliably even under test conditions.
Talladega police were just beginning to arrive at the crime scene when a patrol officer saw the vehicle on Alabama 21 and a chase ensued. The chase ended near the Grand Prix Track when the vehicle, which is registered to White’s mother, broke down. The .357 was recovered in the back seat. The defective .38 was recovered across the street from Edison’s trailer. It had not been fired.
The bowl of change, some marijuana and some crack cocaine, as well as some paper money, was recovered inside the vehicle as well.
Defense attorneys Jeff Salyer and Daniel Wright pointed out Cunningham did not see who fired the shot and McCain never saw White with the .375.
White, in a statement given to police following his arrest, put the gun in his own hand, however, and took some responsibility for the killing while denying he had planned it that way.
Immediately after his arrest, White told Talladega Police Captain Ronny Jones he had nothing to say, followed by a long string of curse words.
Following his initial court appearance that afternoon, Jones testified White said he had changed his mind and wanted to make a statement.
In a taped statement, White said he and Watts had gone into the cemetery to hook up with a couple of girls. When McCain (according to White) shined the light into the vehicle, the girls decided to leave, which made White and Watts angry. The .357 belonged to Watts, but White said he had been the one carrying it, and that shooting Edison had been an accident. “It went to hell quick,” he said of the incident.
“I did the shooting,” he said at another point on the tape, which was difficult to understand in many places.
He also said Watts had taken the .38 from Edison after Edison accidentally shot himself with it. Jones pointed out evidence was the .38 had not been fired recently, but White stuck with his story.
Also Tuesday morning before the sides had an opportunity to open their cases. One juror experienced a medical emergency Monday night and required surgery at Stringfellow Memorial Hospital Anniston. Circuit Judge Bo Hollingsworth read an update late in the afternoon saying the juror had made it through surgery.
Another juror is employed as a manager at Abitibibowater and expressed concern about being able to concentrate on the case knowing he may lose his job. He remained on the panel Tuesday afternoon, however.
Two alternate jurors were struck Tuesday, so there is still one left. It is necessary to have 12 jurors to decide the case.
If convicted of capital murder, White would face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
If convicted of felony murder, which is an accidental killing in the course of a felony, he would face 20 to 99 years or life in prison.