published Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Chattanooga teen gets trial date in 2011 slaying

A teen charged in three separate, high-profile Chattanooga shootings now has a murder trial scheduled for April 16.

Lonta Buress Jr., 18, faces a trial on a first-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Darius Townsend on June 1, 2011.

Defense attorney Bill Speek said Tuesday that he contends Buress is innocent and is preparing for trial.

Unless Burress testifies, it’s unlikely that information about his past arrests and recent conviction in an unrelated shooting will come before the jury, Speek said.

The attorney added that he will request that allegations of Burress’ gang affiliation not be allowed in the trial to avoid prejudicing the jury.

Prosecutors for the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office are not allowed to comment on pending cases by office policy.

Burress first gained public attention when he was arrested for alleged involvement in the early 2010 Coolidge Park shooting that injured five people. Charges were dismissed when the only eyewitness to come forward changed testimony in a juvenile court hearing.

Later that same year, on Dec. 7, 2010, Burress was arrested along with Darius Gustus in a school bus stop shooting and high-speed chase.

The pair were found guilty and each sentenced to six years for their convictions, the maximum allowed for the charge aggravated assault.

Prosecutors say that six months after the school bus stop shooting, while free on bond awaiting trial, Burress shot and killed Townsend. He has remained in jail since his arrest after that shooting.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

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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