published Friday, March 11th, 2011

Defendant’s words

Judge Barry A. Steelman explains testimony rights to Montez Davis during court late Thursday.
Staff Photo by Tim  Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Judge Barry A. Steelman explains testimony rights to Montez Davis during court late Thursday. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Bullets that ripped across a gas station parking lot, killing a 42-year-old man last year, also struck cars with the shooter’s sister and his cousin sitting inside.

Closing arguments begin this morning in the murder trial of 20-year-old Montez Davis. The jury then will decide if Davis is guilty of premeditated first-degree murder and other related charges.

Prosecutors and police have alleged throughout the trial, which started Tuesday, that at about 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2010, Davis drove through the parking lot of the Kanku’s gas station at 3440 Wilcox Blvd.

Documents state that as Davis drove a rented white 2009 Jeep Patriot through the lot, Anthony Russell threw a beer bottle through the back window of the vehicle.

Davis drove to the far exit of the parking lot, stopped the car and grabbed a .40-caliber Glock pistol from his friend Juane Howard, who was sitting in the passenger seat. Davis stepped out of the car and began firing back at the crowd of people near the gas pumps.

A stray bullet struck Jonathan Lawrence in the neck, killing him almost instantly.

For most of the third day of Davis’ trial on Thursday, Chattanooga police Detective Adam Emery testified about his investigation of Lawrence’s death. The jury heard a 50-minute recorded police interview of Davis that was made the morning after the shooting.

At the beginning of the interview, Davis said he went through the parking lot because he saw his sister sitting in their mother’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. After someone threw a bottle through his car’s back window, he said he just drove home.

But about halfway through the recording, Davis admits to firing the shots that killed Lawrence.

None of his five shots hit his intended target — members of the Bloods gang, whom Davis’ mother later testified had continually harassed Davis to the point where he dropped out of Brainerd High School his junior year.

A transcript of the recording recounts the questions and answers between Emery and Davis, who speaks quietly throughout the interview.

Defense attorney Curtis L. Bowe III questioned how Emery obtained Davis’ statement and whether his client understood what he was signing when he waived his Miranda rights to remain silent and to have a lawyer present.

Bowe highlighted Emery’s interrogation training and 10 years of police work as compared to his client’s 11th-grade education and difficulties understanding the definition of words such as “remorse.”

Emery defended his interview and explained that he read the rights waiver form with Davis, asking him to initial and sign it if he understood what the form stated.

Bowe called Davis’ mother, Kaliqua Johnson, as a witness to testify to her son’s difficulties in school with harassment and her belief that he’s had lifelong problems with learning and comprehension.

Davis’ cousin, Charice Nash, took the stand for the defense late in the day. One-by-one, Bowe laid photographs taken from video footage at the gas station, showing a dark-colored SUV circling the gas pumps and parking in front of the car in which Nash was a passenger. The SUV was full of young, black men, Nash testified.

She verified that she saw the dark SUV, then saw Davis drive by in the white SUV. Within moments she heard gunfire, causing her to duck down in the car.

After the shooting stopped, Nash looked up and saw Lawrence’s body. She rushed to him, calling 911 on her cell phone.

“He was moving,” she testified. “I said, ‘If you can hear me, move. He moved one time, then he stopped.’”

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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