Aiming to deflect doubts over how he could put names to the two men who leaned out the window of an SUV and fired at him while speeding down the Pontchartrain Expressway, Corey Martin insisted it was easy.
“I looked to my left,” he said. “I got eyes.”
Martin survived the barrage, unlike his best friend, 20-year-old Ralph Bias, who was at the wheel of his Chevy Camaro when a silver Ford Explorer with four people inside it sped up on Jan. 5, 2011, and gunfire rained down.
Martin had a bullet lodged in his back and a tattoo of Bias etched on his arm as he testified in an Orleans Parish courtroom Thursday in front of the two men he pegged as the killers.
Tyrone “Tyga” Davenport, 26, and Dale “Check Peazy” Elmore, 24, are accused not only of murdering Bias and trying to kill Martin, but they also face a racketeering conspiracy count as alleged members of a street clan identified by prosecutors as “The Taliban.”
A 12-count indictment handed up in August 2013 accuses eight alleged associates of the group, also referred to as “Hot Glocks” or “P-Block,” of a host of gun and drug crimes and violence. Two of the indicted men already have pleaded guilty.
Such racketeering cases, which District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office has pursued with zeal over the past four years, allow prosecutors to introduce a wider array of evidence than an ordinary murder trial.
In this trial, which started Tuesday, prosecutors Inga Petrovich and Payal Patel have presented evidence on a host of co-defendants, painting the attack on Bias and Martin as part of a larger web of gang activity.
Martin said he was struck five times in the freeway assault. He testified he’d been involved in two earlier altercations with the same group, as far back as 2010, and that was why he could be sure it was Davenport and Elmore who shot him.
“All of us went to school together,” he said.
Asked what Bias was doing as the gunfire erupted and he turned to his left, Martin said, “By the time the bullets started coming, he wasn’t doing nothing. He was already dead.”
The pair were headed to New Orleans East to help a friend move, he said, having stopped at a gas station on South Carrollton Avenue before driving onto the interstate.
With Bias, the driver, limp, the Camaro spun out and stopped along the guard rail. Martin said he got out of the car but fell, having been shot in each leg.
Martin, who has a battery conviction from Municipal Court, was called to the stand under a material witness bond but insisted he wanted to be there “cause it’s the right thing to do.”
Elmore’s attorney, Eusi Phillips, sought to trip him up over his identification of the two men, which he gave shortly after the shooting to New Orleans Police Detective Regina Williams.
“You mean to tell me you turn to look and see who’s shooting? That’s what you did?” Phillips asked him.
“The only thing I needed is a brief second to see somebody, individuals you grew up (with),” Martin responded. “If you know someone, you know ’em. Shouldn’t take that long.”
Davenport’s attorney, John Hall Thomas, argued Wednesday that the alleged killers were in fact budding young rap musicians, and far from gangsters.
They went by the full name of the “Taliban Survival Corporation,” a moniker that Thomas suggested was abbreviated by prosecutors to cast them in a grimmer light.
Thomas also sought Thursday to cast doubt on how Martin could have seen the shooter to the left while sitting in the passenger seat and receiving a bullet wound in the right buttocks.
Thomas suggested that Martin was turning to his right.
“That’s the exit wound. That ain’t where it went in at,” Martin told the jury.
“Weren’t you trying to duck?”
“Maybe. It all happened so fast.”
Elmore, Davenport and Jamal “Malloyn Calloyn” Harris had been previously indicted, in 2011, for the deadly interstate attack, prior to Cannizzaro’s office securing the gang racketeering indictment.
The trial before Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman is expected to continue Friday. Davenport and Elmore, who sat attentively during Martin’s testimony, each face mandatory life in prison if convicted of murder.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.