published Friday, July 6th, 2012

Reluctant homicide case witnesses are called cowards

The family of a man killed in a 2010 shooting said after a Thursday court hearing that witnesses to the crime are "cowards" for not coming forward to testify.

Beverly Richardson, whose son JerMichael Richardson was shot and killed on Nov. 19, 2010, said some of her son's friends saw the crime and have refused to testify or changed their stories.

"They need to come forward. They're just cowards," she said after a Hamilton County Criminal Court hearing Thursday for 20-year-old Devante Stoudemire, who is charged in Richardson's death. "A lot of them were standing out there and saw it."

Stoudemire was free on bond and off house arrest awaiting either a trial or dismissal of the charges in Richardson's death when he was arrested in connection with the Monday shooting death of 38-year-old Steven Mosley.

Police arrested Stoudemire, a member of the street gang Gangsta Disciples, Tuesday and charged him with first-degree murder, especially aggravated robbery and criminal conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with Mosley's death.

Police also charged Dustin Hayes and Ronald Cosper, both 18, with the same charges in the crime. Cosper also was charged with possession of a firearm during commission of a crime.

Stoudemire, in custody on a $1.7 million bond, has a preliminary hearing scheduled Tuesday in General Sessions Court.

During Thursday's previously scheduled status hearing on the 2010 case, prosecutor Neal Pinkston asked Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman to revoke Stoudemire's bond in the case.

But Steelman, a former prosecutor, said the new charge is an allegation and has not been proven. In October, Steelman reduced Stoudemire's bond from $350,000 to $75,000. The judge said the reduction and Stoudemire's subsequent release from jail were because of weak evidence and lack of testimony in the 2010 case, which is still the case.

"The facts presently produced before the court show the state's not ready to proceed on it," Steelman told Pinkston."So I'm not going to revoke the bond."

He added that the $1.7 million bond on the new charge should be sufficient to keep Stoudemire in custody should public safety be a concern.

"Maybe he did this new murder. I don't know. He'll come before the court on that," Steelman said. "On its face that might look bad, but in our system of justice someone is innocent until proven guilty."

One eyewitness in the Richardson shooting -- a person not named in court -- died in a car crash, and forensic evidence tested at the state crime laboratory did not definitively connect Stoudemire with the shooting.

Stoudemire's attorney, Johnathan Turner, told Steelman his client was ready for a trial and had been ready in May when prosecutors asked for more time.

Stoudemire served more than a year in jail in the Richardson case before being released on bond.

Both Turner and Pinkston declined to comment on the pending case. Steelman set July 12 as the next status date to decide if the Richardson case will go to trial.

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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