Daniel Bryant sighed, rolled his head and stared into space in a New Orleans courtroom Wednesday.
The one thing Bryant, 22, would not do was say anything about who shot his cousin dead on a stretch of Frenchmen Street crowded with music fans one morning in 2014.
Bryant’s silence under pressure came on the second day of the trial of Dominique Jenkins, who is accused of shooting dead Bryant’s cousin, 21-year-old Julius Dunn. Bryant identified Jenkins, 24, as the shooter to police but refused to do so again in court.
Jenkins faces life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder in the June 25, 2014, killing.
After Bryant refused to speak, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Paul Bonin held him in contempt of court and ordered him to serve six months on top of a five-year sentence he already is serving in an unrelated case.
Surveillance cameras caught Dunn's death, which happened on the sidewalk between the Blue Nile and Three Muses clubs. However, prosecutors must go beyond what can be seen on the grainy, low-light footage to prove that Jenkins was the triggerman.
Police said after Jenkins’ arrest that he shot Dunn as part of an ongoing dispute. Jenkins fired the shots from a white SUV driving down the street with its lights off, police said.
Bryant was at his cousin’s side after a night spent enjoying the clubs on Frenchmen, according to prosecutors. The day after the killing he appeared at New Orleans Police Department headquarters to give a formal statement, naming Jenkins as the killer.
In the intervening years, Bryant has run into his own legal problems. He pleaded guilty last month in Jefferson Parish to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine as well as carrying a gun with the drugs. Judge John Molaison Jr. of 24th Judicial District Court sentenced him to five years in prison.
As Bryant sat on the stand Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Inga Petrovich suggested that he has been the target of a pressure campaign in jail.
“You’ve received threats on your life, calling you a rat, calling you a snitch? Isn’t that correct, Mr. Bryant?” Petrovich said.
Bryant said nothing. He said nothing more when a defense attorney tried to question him.
Prosecutors sought to play Bryant’s videotaped statement to police for the jury, but Bonin sided with an objection from defense attorney Bradley Phillips, barring it from the trial.
Petrovich said the state would file an emergency appeal of that decision.
Phillips said playing Bryant’s statement in court would violate Jenkins’ right to confront his accusers. “This is a murder case,” Phillips said. “We would be completely deprived of our ability to question.”
The scenario that played out in Bonin’s courtroom on Wednesday matched neatly with another one last month in the same courthouse at Tulane Avenue and Broad Street.
In that case, Phillips also represented the defendant, and former New Orleans Police Department Detective Ryan Vaught also was the lead detective.
A different judge ordered the co-defendant of a murder suspect to be held in contempt when he refused to talk. But prosecutors never sought to introduce a taped statement from the co-defendant in court.