published Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Jury in teen's murder trial views video of street fight

Temekia Reed is escorted into Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom Tuesday. Reed is on trial for the stabbing death of 15 year-old Shaviya Vinson.
Temekia Reed is escorted into Judge Rebecca Stern's courtroom Tuesday. Reed is on trial for the stabbing death of 15 year-old Shaviya Vinson.
Photo by Dan Henry.

Frame by frame, a street fight unfolds on the screen before the jury. A woman straddles another woman lying flat on the pavement and punches her again and again.

Standing in the crowd is Shaviya Vinson, wearing a white tank top. The 15-year-old girl is not yet in the fight.

A man pulls the punching woman up.

The fight continues; others rush in. One woman carries a metal shelf and throws it into the crowd.

Angry voices yell for the beating to continue, nearly chanting.

Vinson is in the middle of the brawl.

There is a blur, possibly something metal in the hand of a woman who runs into the mix.

Some of those fighting turn away, walking out of view.

Then a woman's voice emits a high-pitched scream, "Oh my God! Oh my God!"

The cellphone video does not capture Vinson bleeding in the street, near the corner of Poplar and West 13th streets in College Hill Courts.

The footage doesn't show a pair of purple-handled scissors that had been shoved between her ribs and into her chest.

There isn't any film of her dying in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.

As the video played in court Tuesday, her stepfather stood, clenching his jaw, and stepped past people in the gallery, including more than two dozen family and friends of both Vinson and her accused killer, Temekia Reed.

Before he reached the door, he screamed and lunged, shoving the exit door open and stumbling out into the courthouse hallway.

The Dec. 19, 2011, fight that resulted in Vinson's death started over $20 that Natalia Reed, Tamekia's mother, said she was owed for baby-sitting one of Vinson's family members.

Hours after the stabbing, Temekia Reed's sister Derrecka Witcher told police that she ran from the fight and asked Reed what she had in her hand.

Temekia Reed said she had scissors and that she "saw an open chest and she took it."

But in Hamilton County Criminal Court on Tuesday, Witcher testified to prosecutor Cameron Williams that she never heard Temekia say those words and she only told police that because she felt threatened.

Witcher claimed police told her that if she did not tell them who did it she would "do life in prison," which is why she recounted details of the fight in a videotaped statement.

But Williams doubted her claims.

"The fact is on Dec. 20, 2011, you told the truth," Williams said. "You told them that your sister had that pair of scissors and disposed of them after she stabbed that 15-year-old girl."

"No," Witcher replied.

"And you know that she's facing a murder charge and she's your sister and you're going to come in here and lie today," Williams said.

During opening statements, Temekia Reed's attorney Michael Thomas told the jury that the video prosecutors played in slow motion moments before would prove his client's innocence.

"What you see is a very confusing scene. Ms. Reed did not murder Shaviya Vinson. I anticipate you will see the actual murderer, a person who is not in this courtroom, who will not be here during the trial, a person who has not been charged," Thomas said.

The cellphone video replayed multiple times throughout the first day of the trial is not a studio quality feature film. The footage is shaky. The street is dark. The people in the recording are moving constantly and very few faces can be seen clearly.

Witcher was in the fight that night, yet while on the witness stand had a hard time identifying some of the people in the recording.

Prosecutors have piles of evidence to present -- photographs of blood in the street, brown bags with metal shelving and other items collected from the crime scene.

But they started their case with the video.

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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