A months-long dispute between James Fells and Christopher Emanuel Freeman ended in a shooting that left Freeman dead and sent another man in the hospital with serious injuries, prosecutors told a jury Tuesday.
Fells, who has also used the name James Fields, is charged with first-degree murder and several assault and weapons charges in connection with Freeman’s death.
Police found Freeman, 28, lying face-up in an alley around 3:30 a.m. Aug. 5, 2011. Seven 9mm cartridge casings were scattered around the scene. Police also found an empty sawed-off shotgun hidden in the bushes 15 feet from Freeman’s body; no shotgun shells were recovered.
Fells’ defense attorneys, though, say the case hinges on the testimony of a faulty witness. Another man, Markell Gordon, survived the shooting and made up a story about Fells, they contend.
Gordon “is a man with things to hide,” defense attorney Michael Carter told the jury Tuesday.
In the early morning hours of Aug. 5, 2011, Gordon and Freemen were talking in an alley off 34th Street Southeast when Fells approached them, pulled a gun from his waistband, and asked, “Who is that?” After Gordon identified himself, Fells put the gun back in his waistband, Gordon told the court.
Gordon said that the three men stood talking in the alley for about ten minutes, and then Fells walked off. Five minutes later, Fells returned to the alley, this time talking on his cell phone. According to Gordon, Fells walked past them, stopped, turned around, and then shot at them.
Gordon was struck in the left side of his face, the left shoulder and his right hand. Charging documents state that Freeman suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his head and upper body.
Gordon testified that he fell to the ground, blacked out for a few seconds, then got up and ran. He said he never looked to see what happened to Freeman.
Gordon said that he ran to several homes in the area and banged on doors, but neighbors would not help him. He had a T-shirt in his mouth to stop the bleeding, and he could barely speak because his mouth was locked open.
Finally, Gordon managed to stop a car that was driving down the street. Freeman’s brother and one of his cousins were in the vehicle, Gordon said. While they sped to the hospital, they asked Gordon about Freeman, but he did not give them an answer.
“I was trying to avoid all the questions,” Gordon testified. “I was just trying to get to the hospital.”
Doctors at United Medical Center wired Gordon’s mouth shut and he ate through tubes for more than a week. He communicated with police using pen and paper. He checked into the hospital under his brother’s name, he said, because he was in violation of his parole and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.
When detectives asked Gordon who shot him and Freeman, Gordon wrote, “Jim,” referring to Fells. A few days later, detectives returned to the hospital with a photo array and asked Gordon if the shooter was pictured in the lineup; Gordon circled a picture of Fells.
Fells’ defense attorneys argued that because Gordon had lied to hospital staff, his account of the shooting couldn’t be trusted.
The trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday in Judge Ronna Beck’s courtroom.