GREENSBURG — Myron Hughes bled to death near his mother’s house on Oct. 8, 2007, about 50 yards up the street from where he was shot in a gun fight.
In the eight years since the shooting, more than half a dozen different stories have surfaced about what started the fight. But what prosecutors plan to show the jury this week is what happened right after the shooting, “before everybody lawyered up,” said Assistant District Attorney Richard McShan, of the 21st Judicial District Court.
The second-degree murder trial of Fitzpatrick Williams, one of three men indicted in Hughes’ death, began Tuesday. A jury of nine women and three men will decide whether Williams shot Hughes, 21, with the intent either to inflict great bodily harm or to kill him.
During opening statements, McShan said jurors likely will hear a lot about self-defense and justifiable homicide this week, but he urged them to focus on one point: “Myron Hughes was not the aggressor. Fitzpatrick Williams was.”
Williams’ attorney, Summer Vicknair, painted a different picture, telling jurors this was a case of “wrong place, wrong time.”
Williams, now 38, was lying on the couch at his girlfriend’s home on Calmes Road, just north of the Livingston Parish line off La. 16, when two men came over and said they needed his help with a feud they were having with Hughes, McShan said.
What the dispute was about is unclear: maybe a girl, maybe a threat. Either way, it was supposed to be settled with a fist fight, McShan said. But somebody brought a gun.
Witness statements conflict as to how many guns were drawn and who fired first, but two people were shot: Hughes and Jesse Thomas III, one of the two men who had roused Williams to help settle the dispute.
Shortly after the shooting, police pulled over Williams, who was driving Thomas, now 36, to the hospital. The two men were arrested, along with Samuel Williams, now 28. All three were indicted with second-degree murder. Fitzpatrick Williams is the first to go to trial.
McShan said Fitzpatrick Williams told deputies that he “had a gun and shot him.”
Vicknair said her client only said that he had a gun and had fired it — not that he shot Hughes.
“We’re here because he admits to shooting,” Vicknair told the jury.
Vicknair said her client fired only after seeing Thomas, shot and bleeding, lying in a ditch.
Fitzpatrick Williams had no motive to kill Hughes, and the state has no evidence that he fired the fatal shot, Vicknair said.
“Only one gun was recovered in some bushes,” Vicknair said. “They claim it was Fitzpatrick Williams’, but there is no evidence that he owned or had a gun.”
No DNA or fingerprints were lifted from the gun or casings, Vicknair said. No blood samples were tested, and Hughes was not tested for gunpowder residue.
During jury selection, Vicknair quizzed potential jurors on their understanding of reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence and the degree of intent prosecutors must prove to secure a guilty verdict. McShan asked for their thoughts on the state’s homicide laws and inquired about any family members the District Attorney’s Office may have prosecuted.
Both attorneys asked about the jurors’ willingness to vote guilty, if the evidence supported it, knowing that second-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence. Those questions brought tears for a Holden schoolteacher, who said she had always taught her children not to judge.
The teacher was one of 13 people — 12 jurors and an alternate — selected from among 42 prospective jurors questioned Tuesday. Those tossed from the pool included two men who were connected to the Hughes family, two women who went to school with potential witnesses in the case, several law enforcement officers and a few men who said they would find it difficult to understand why a defendant might not testify.
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