COLUMBUS, Ga. — Closing arguments are scheduled to start Wednesday, after the defense and prosecution rested their cases in the Peachtree Mall Murder Trial. The three defendants standing trial refused to testify after each side rested their case.
As News 3 reported, 19-year-old Xzavaien Jones, 26-year-old Terrell McFarland, and 24-year-old Tekoa Young are accused in the shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Meredith.
Tuesday, the prosecution focused on the day in question: March 26, 2016. The state called Columbus Police Homicide Detective Michael Dahnke to the stand. Det. Dahnke says he spoke with a witness who reportedly observed the shooting. The witness showed police a picture of Jones, who the witness identified as the alleged gunman. The defense questioned where the picture came from, and they discovered that the witness did not have a picture of Jones during the shooting.
The state then called Columbus Police Detective Sandra Hickey to the stand to testify on cell phone data extraction and call details. Hickey works in the Computer Crime Unit. She was asked to map phone records for the three defendants the day of the murder. She says phone logs show several calls between the defendants. Hickey adds Jones, McFarland and Young were near the same phone tower, less than half a mile from the mall that day.
“Around the time of the murder, about 7:45 to 7:31, it’s consistent with all three being around the Peachtree Mall area,” prosecutor Pete Temesgen asked. Is that correct?”
“That’s correct,” Det. Hickey said.
Last week and Monday, the state tried to tie the three defendants together through criminal gang activity and gang culture. Tuesday, the prosecution tried to group the defendants together through their communication and location the day of the murder.
After the state and the defense rested their cases, the defense tried to motion for a direct verdict, meaning the jury would not be able to reach a decision in the case. However, the judge denied their motions. The defense then continued with their cases for their clients’ innocence. Young’s attorney, William Kendrick, said witness information about the scene at the mall was unreliable. Kendrick added that there was no physical evidence linking Young to the crime. In his mind, there was only evidence that she was at the mall or in the vicinity at the time.
“Where is that at, where they argued that because she pulled up and parked at the mall, that she aided or abetted a shooting?” Kendrick asked. “It doesn’t exist.”
Meanwhile, the state argued that Young never told police she was at Peachtree Mall. Instead, she claims she was at a strip mall. Temesgen says between video evidence, call logs, and other expert witness testimony, there’s plenty of evidence that links Young to the crime.
“They come close together,” Temesgen said. “Then they walk to the car, then they walk toward the mall. And after the shooting, they’re all running away together. That is way stronger evidence. That is a direct visual representation of lying in wait.”
The defense says the locations mapped out via cell phone records may not be totally accurate. The defense also argues that someone else could have been using the defendants’ phones.
Closing arguments are slated to begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday. After the state and defense argue, the jury will deliberate and render a verdict. This murder is considered a capital case under Georgia law. However, the death penalty cannot be applied to this case, according to the judge.