PORT ALLEN — A key witness in the case against a man and woman accused of killing the woman’s husband in a murder-for-hire conspiracy will take the stand despite an attempt Wednesday by defense attorneys to have him barred from testifying against his alleged co-conspirators.
Shortly after the jury was dismissed Wednesday afternoon in the trial of Monique O. Kitts, 45, of Livingston, and Karl Michael Howard, 30, of Roswell, Georgia, their attorneys tried to dissuade the court from allowing prosecutors to call to the stand a Baton Rouge man also indicted in the July 2010 killing of Kitts’ husband.
Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton said defense attorneys didn’t want Corey Knox, 29, to take the stand on Thursday because his testimony will be “devastating” to their strategy of maintaining their clients’ innocence in the fatal shooting of Corey Kitts.
“Once it hits, it will put a bow on this entire case,” Clayton said after Wednesday’s court proceedings. “If I were them, I wouldn’t want (Knox) on the stand either.”
Allen Myles, Monique Kitts’ attorney, and public defender Tommy Thompson, who is representing Howard, accused Clayton of violating an order from state district Judge J. Robin Free mandating they be notified within 24 hours of any changes or new information related to the ongoing trial.
Kitts and Howard each have been indicted on counts of second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder.
Knox, who allegedly served as the getaway driver on the day Corey Kitts was murdered, was supposed to stand trial this week along with Kitts and Howard, but on Oct. 20, prosecutors dropped the second-degree murder count against him after he agreed to testify. He still faces a conspiracy count.
During a heated quick-fire exchange among the attorneys Wednesday afternoon, Myles and Thompson argued that Clayton and the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office got Knox to flip against their clients by enticing him with a deal lessening any prison time he might serve.
Clayton told the judge that only the second-degree murder charge against Knox was dropped but the District Attorney’s Office hadn’t agreed to anything else.
“I believe taking murder off the table is a deal,” Thompson retorted.
Free maintained that the defense attorneys weren’t blind-sided by Knox’s about-face since it was alluded to in opening statements Monday and during pre-trial proceedings Oct. 20.
“I think it was painfully obvious to everyone what was going on,” Free said from the bench Wednesday. “Everyone knew he was ‘rolling over.’ It would be a miscarriage of justice not to let him testify.”
In an interview with reporters after Wednesday’s proceedings, Myles said he planned to spend the night preparing for whatever Knox may tell jurors when he’s called to the stand Thursday.
“I’m not really sure what he’s going to say; I’m assuming he’s going to say he was present when some things happened,” Myles said, “(but) it doesn’t worry me at all. And I really wasn’t surprised they dropped the murder charge against him because they had no case on him all along.”
Clayton said Knox will most likely be on the stand for “several hours.” The prosecutor shrugged off allegations he had violated the judge’s 24-hour order.
“There was a big hearing on this; they knew then,” Clayton said. “I’m tickled pink with the way this trial is going. (Knox) has to testify to what took place on the day of Corey Kitts’ murder. But in terms of a deal, we haven’t agreed on anything.”
Corey Kitts, 40, was shot to death while he was in bed in the couple’s home in Addis’ River Landing subdivision.
Clayton has spent the first three days of the trial spinning a tale of sex, lies and murder, portraying Monique Kitts as a greedy woman who hired Howard to kill her husband for a large insurance payout.
Prosecutors spent the third day of the trial connecting more of the dots surrounding their murder-for-hire theory.
David Ray Johnson, a man who on Tuesday admitted to having had an affair with Monique Kitts, was grilled by defense attorneys Thompson and Myles, who attempted to poke holes in his accusations that she had given him money on several occasions to find a contract killer.
Johnson told jurors Tuesday that Kitts initially brought up killing her husband as a joke but later said she was serious.
Johnson said Kitts paid him about $4,000 — over an extended period — to hire someone to do the deed.
On Wednesday, Thompson used Johnson’s initial statements to investigators, some of which contradicted his testimony Tuesday, to try to discredit him.
But prosecutors strived to strengthen Johnson’s testimony by calling Darnell Slyve to stand.
Slyve, 37, of Baton Rouge, testified that Johnson split $1,000 of Monique Kitts’ money with him in a faux attempt by Johnson to find a contract killer.
Johnson said previously he also gave Slyve Corey Kitts’ work schedule, which Monique Kitts had given Johnson.
But Slyve said Wednesday he never went to the couple’s home or seriously entertained Monique Kitts’ desire to have her husband killed.
“What was your involvement?” Clayton asked.
“My involvement? (Johnson) just gave me money saying he was using her,” Slyve replied. “I didn’t take it seriously.”
During Myles’ cross examination Slyve added, “I didn’t assume anyone wanted to kill anyone — not for no $500.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.