A Baton Rouge woman told detectives she feared for her life when she fatally shot her boyfriend in self-defense in 2017, but one of those detectives told a jury Wednesday that surveillance video shows the man moving backward with his hands up and then turning to walk away as the fatal shot was fired.
Jimeelah Crockett, 28, is standing trial on second-degree murder in the slaying of Joseph Bunch III, 38. A conviction on that charge would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Baton Rouge police Detective Lindsey LaCoste testified the surveillance video was retrieved from the Ardendale Oaks apartments the day after the fatal shooting in the parking lot of the North Lobdell Boulevard complex where Crockett and Bunch shared an apartment.
Bunch, 38, was killed in the early-morning hours of Aug. 20, 2017, and Crockett was interviewed by LaCoste and fellow police Detective Robert Cook that day.
The video, which was retrieved the following day, was shown to an East Baton Rouge Parish jury Wednesday. LaCoste acknowledged she had to watch the video many times to reach her conclusions as to what it shows.
In her videotaped statement, which was played for the jury, Crockett tells LaCoste and Cook that Bunch had been physical with her inside their apartment that night and that she shot him outside after he came at her with a raised hand as if he meant to hit her. The gun, a 9 mm pistol, was found at the scene.
Crockett had a busted lip and minor scratches on her body when police arrived at the scene. She said Bunch seemed to be intoxicated when he came home from work that night.
Dr. Jimmy Smith, the pathologist who performed Bunch’s autopsy, said Bunch had a blood alcohol level of 0.089 percent. In Louisiana, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving for those 21 and older.
In her opening statement to the jury earlier Wednesday, prosecutor Louise Hines said the surveillance video proves the killing was murder.
"A picture is worth a thousand words. How much is a video worth?" she asked the jury rhetorically. "You will see that any claim of self-defense is absurd. The video is the unbiased truth."
But Hays Town, who represents Crockett, argued the video shows only part of the story that ill-fated night, and he told jurors the shooting was an act of self-defense.
An arrest report says the video shows Bunch walking over to Crockett in the parking lot, holding up what appears to be a piece of paper. Soon after, Bunch is seen backing away from Crockett with his hands up. Crockett is then seen putting a gun up to Bunch. When he turns around to walk away, Crockett fires a shot, the report states.
Bunch was shot in his back left shoulder. Smith said the shot perforated Bunch’s windpipe and left lung.
Town told the jury that Bunch had beaten Crockett on a previous occasion.
"She sustained two beatings from Mr. Bunch. She stood her ground and did not retreat any farther," he argued.
Town said Bunch, not Crockett, was the aggressor that night.
"He was not finished. He wanted to continue the fight," the defense lawyer said.
State District Judge Bonnie Jackson is presiding over the trial, which will resume Thursday. It is expected to conclude Friday.
Crockett had two children at the time of Bunch’s death: an 8-year-old and a 9-month-old. She also delivered a child on May 5, 2018, while jailed in the Bunch case. That child, Josiah Crockett, died May 4 of this year of blunt force injuries to his chest and abdomen.
Last month, Terence N. Ransom, the father of that child, was indicted on second-degree murder. He is accused of punching the child during a profanity-laced tirade.