Before she fired six shots into Morris “Ice Man” Smith on a cool December afternoon in Hollygrove, Shelley Davis was clueless about guns, her attorney told an Orleans Parish jury Tuesday.
She knew enough to buy one for self-protection as a street beef between Smith and her older brother, Eric “Fresh” Davis, turned hot, said her attorney, David Capasso.
And, yes, enough to pose suggestively with a pair of handguns for an Instagram photo, Capasso added, looking to neutralize some of the evidence prosecutors plan to present.
“It’s not one of those poses where she’s trying to aspire to be an actress,” Capasso said during his opening statement Tuesday. “It’s just, ‘How you doing? These are two guns.’ ”
But he insisted that Davis, 24, never expected to squeeze the trigger until after she arrived at her aunt’s home on Olive Street on Dec. 12, 2012, and Smith strolled up behind her, looking for payback after being robbed by her brother.
“He was a big guy, 275 pounds. She knew that he was threatening her, saying, ‘You know what I want.’ This time he’s over her; he’s on top of her,” Capasso said.
They tussled over a purse, he said. Davis grabbed her gun and fired, but it jammed, according to police. She then cocked it back and fired again. Smith went down and she pumped more bullets — six in all — into him from the 9 mm semi-automatic handgun. Smith died at the scene.
“There is no doubt that justifiable homicide fits in this case,” Capasso argued. “This is the definition of somebody in fear of imminent danger.”
Prosecutors Kevin Guillory and Karen Lansden painted an entirely different picture. Guillory described Smith’s killing to the jury as an assassination directed by her brother, who at the time was behind bars. Among the evidence the jury is expected to hear is a jailhouse phone call in which Eric Davis solicits help from his sister.
“See what I’m saying, dog? You got to do that then, dog,” he tells her.
She responds, “Say, on that (stuff) there, that’s done. I’m tired of playing with dude, man. That’s done, love. Real talk.”
Later, her brother adds, “I’m glad I got in touch with you, dog, because I know nobody ain’t gonna handle my business. You gonna handle my (stuff), you dig?”
“Right,” she replies.
The phone call took place less than a week before the shooting at Olive and Gen. Ogden streets.
Bernard Baker, a friend of the victim who faces separate charges that include attempted murder, witnessed the shooting. He is expected to testify in a trial that began with jury selection Monday and is expected to run into Thursday.
After shooting Smith, Davis ran from the scene, in what Capasso argued was the flight of a shocked woman. He described his client as being in the throes of adrenaline.
“I don’t think she’s worried,” Capasso said. “ ‘I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m shooting this trigger, and I’m hearing these pops. Now I’m pushing my way out and I’m running.’ She just blocks everything out.”
Police arrested Davis three months later, based on a witness identification, court records show.
Capasso called it a “cryptic case” prosecuted by a District Attorney’s Office that believes “somebody’s got to pay no matter what it takes.”
A state grand jury indicted Davis on a single count of second-degree murder in May 2013. She faces mandatory life in prison if convicted.
Capasso sought to cast Smith in a dim light. “He had cocaine in his system,” he said. “What they also found is 22 pills in his anal cavity. ... No stories, no games. That is a fact.”
Davis sat quietly in a black suit and crisp white shirt as the jury heard the first frantic 911 call from the crime scene.
But she won’t remain silent. Capasso assured the jury that Davis will take the witness stand to tell her story, leaving her open to a cross-examination that is bound to harp on what Capasso acknowledged were some unflattering online images and banter.
“If she’s not credible, (if) she’s not believable, heaven help her,” he said.
Davis’ only prior arrest record in Orleans Parish was for solicitation, a charge she beat in a judge trial in 2009, records show.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.