Parking lot murder back before jury

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — For the second time in three months, a jury was asked to determine the fate of a man accused of murder in a Fort Street parking lot.

Shortly before press time, jurors in the courtroom of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge James Callahan began deliberations on first-degree murder charges faced by Shannon Maurice Henderson. The 34-year-old is accused of three felonies related to the April 2011 murder of 32-year-old Adrian Deshaun Bell.

Police and prosecutors said that Henderson shot Bell twice while in the parking lot adjacent to White Castle, 2115 Fort St.

Previously, a mistrial was declared in December when a hung jury failed to reach a verdict. Last week, Assistant Prosecutor Raj Prasad presented arguments that included testimony from witnesses to a confrontation between Henderson and Bell shortly before the shooting, video surveillance footage of the argument, and investigator’s reports.

“The prosecution has to prove the elements of a crime,” Prasad said during closing arguments Friday. The investigation, Prasad said, “followed the evidence to its conclusion.”

Prasad recapped testimony and evidence heard over three days last week, which reviewed the events of April 23 that ended shortly after midnight, April 24. According to testimony, Bell and his girlfriend, Dereka Moss, began drinking at about 9 a.m., and continued drinking vodka and smoking marijuana throughout the day.

Before the parking lot shooting, a confrontation between Henderson and Bell was recorded by surveillance cameras at the Ecorse Market, 585 Visger Rd., during which the larger Henderson is seen pushing Bell.

Prasad told jurors that the motivation, circumstances and time added up to Henderson pulling the trigger some time between 12:40 and 12:50 a.m.

Defense attorney Terri L. Johnson told jurors Friday that the timeline calls Henderson’s guilt into question: The White Castle footage was time stamped, but was said to have been off by as much as eight minutes. That discrepancy joined other key factors that Johnson said raised reasonable doubt.

“Nobody ever put a gun in his hand,” Johnson said of his client, telling jurors that Henderson had other combative encounters that day which investigators failed to consider.

Johnson asked jurors to discount the testimony of Moss, who on Thursday appeared in court but was unable to answer questions and admitted she’d been drinking and smoking marijuana before entering the courtroom. Her testimony Friday morning, Johnson said, contradicted previous statements to include testimony given during the first trial.

Prasad said he wouldn’t apologize for Moss, who was still grieving over the loss of Bell and admitted that she was confused about some specifics. Prasad reminded jurors that other witnesses — and surveillance footage from the White Castle parking lot — identified a distinctive El Camino known to belong to Henderson leaving the scene after the shooting.

Henderson was charged with first-degree murder, felony use of a firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm; defense stipulated to the third count Friday. Henderson could face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder.