During a six-day trial, prosecutors argued that Bernard Fleming and Joseph Peoples killed Michael Jones in an “ambush” that also wounded Jones’ brother Maurice. But defense attorneys say there was no an ambush, and Fleming’s attorney argued that there was no evidence to show a gun in Fleming’s hand.
Now it’s up to jurors to decide which version to believe.
Jones was killed two years ago on July 7, 2012, in the 1700 block of 7th Street Northwest. Fleming and Peoples are each charged with second-degree murder while armed, as well as tampering with physical evidence and eight related weapons charges in connection with his death.
At trial, Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Sunil Kumar testified that the gunshot wound to the back of Jones’ head was an entrance wound that could cause instant death.
“The injury was a rapidly fatal injury,” Kumar said. “He would have died in minutes.”
In her closing argument, Assistant US Attorney Vinet Bryant told jurors video footage that captured the “surprise” attack.
That video shows Fleming running to a second floor balcony with a gun and Peoples running through an alley signaling to Fleming, “They are coming,” as he retrieves a gun from a friend, Bryant said.
Jones’ brother Maurice Jones testified that he and his brother only went to talk to Fleming and Peoples that day and that they wanted to make peace after an earlier fight.
Jones said he spotted a group of guys and yelled, “Hey,” and the group took off running. He then noticed Peoples coming down a staircase of a “high-rise” building and he tried to get his attention.
“I said, ‘Yo can I holler at you,’” Jones said. Peoples began to run from him, according to Jones.
Jones said he pursued him trying to get his attention, so he could talk to him and he saw Peoples run across 7th Street to another guy.
Jones told jurors that Peoples was facing the man with his back towards him, but it looked as if they were exchanging something. Jones said suddenly he heard shots and started to run, but dropped near a car.
He saw his brother standing, and then watched as he fell to the ground, Jones said. He said when the police showed up he was “panicky” and “sad” because he knew his brother was gone.
In the courtroom, Jones identified Peoples as the shooter.
Peoples’ defense attorney Jason Downs told jurors that Maurice’s ability to accurately recount the events of that night was hampered by his use of marijuana earlier in the day.
Downs argued that the ballistics evidence doesn’t show that Peoples fired a gun, and that there is evidence, such as bullet fragments found on the side of the street opposite the building, to suggest that Peoples was the one being shot at.
Fleming’s defense attorney Gregg Baron then said that fingerprint and DNA evidence were inconclusive with relation to Fleming, and that based on the way Michael Jones fell suggests he was shot from behind or from across the street, but not from above, where Fleming was standing. He also argued that the video of the shooting shows that nobody looked up at someone firing from above, as would be expected.
Bryant argued that Fleming ran down nine flights of stairs after the murder and “running is consciousness of guilt.” Bryant also said that Peoples doesn’t have to be the “shooter” to be guilty.
“He is aiding and embedding Fleming,” Bryant said. “He certainly had his gun out.”