Defense attorneys say the case against James Sandidge depends on the testimony of a single lying witness. Prosecutors say Sandidge acted with excessive force when he shot Keenan Jerel Lee in response to a punch.
In July jurors deadlocked, unable to decide which side to believe. Now a new group begins deliberations. After closing arguments Wednesday jurors were sent to decide whether Sandidge is guilty of first-degree murder in connection with Lee’s shooting death during Howard University’s 2011 homecoming weekend.
Prosecutors have argued that on October 22, 2011, Lee and his two friends, Mikel Barnes and Ray McLean, drove to Howard University during homecoming weekend festivities to flirt with women. When three men approached Lee and his friends at their parked car, a verbal altercation between Lee and another man turned physical: Lee punched the man because he believed he had a gun.
Then Barnes saw Sandidge, a classmate, shoot Lee.
“It was that simple,” prosecutor George Pace told jurors.
At trial, Barnes testified that himself, McLean and Lee had parked near Howard University Hospital when three men approached them. One of the men was James Sandidge, Barnes said.
According to Barnes, the shortest man addressed Lee and his friends, saying “You all look like you have money.”
Barnes responded, “That’s how you supposed to look.”
During this time, Sandidge recognized Barnes from school and they shook hands, but this upset Lee.
“Don’t dap him up, f**k him,” Lee said, according to Barnes. Barnes tried to calm Lee down but then the shortest man began arguing with Lee.
Lee addressed the shortest man, Barnes testified, asking the shortest man if he and his friends had a gun. Barnes testified that when the shortest man answered, “We do,” Lee turned and punched the man, knocking him to the ground.
Barnes said he then saw Sandidge fire four shots before running away.
Defense Attorney Zucker reminded jurors that Lee was intoxicated past the legal limit and that when Lee turned, he could have been pretending to get a gun or a weapon from the car.
Zucker warned jurors that Barnes’ memory could be selective, noting that Barnes admitted to lying during the first trial. During the first trial, Barnes testified that a detective had told him that Sandidge had confessed; Sandidge did not confess.
But Zucker also told jurors that two other witnesses, Lee’s friend, Raymond McLean, and a Metro employee who witnessed the fight, did not identify Sandidge’s photo in a meeting with law enforcement that took place 60 days after the shooting.
Pace told the jury during his closing argument that Sandidge’s response to the physical altercation was “grossly out of proportion,” noting that Lee did not have a weapon.
Jurors began deliberating at about 4 p.m. Wednesday and will continue Thursday morning.