Parking lot murder trial ends in acquittal

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — Someone shot Adrian Deshaun Bell in a Fort Street parking lot; two gunshots killed the 34-year-old in April 2011.

According to a unanimous jury, Shannon Maurice Henderson was not responsible for Bell’s death, and the trial ended with a verdict of not guilty on March 16.

“They didn’t do their job,” defense attorney Terry Johnson said of the prosecution.

There was reason for identifying Henderson as a suspect in Bell’s death, Johnson said, but the investigation stopped there.

This month’s trial was the second time that murder charges were brought against Henderson. In December a hung jury resulted in Wayne County Circuit Court Judge James Callahan declaring a mistrial.

Prosecutors opted for a second trial, and four days of testimony recalled the sequence of events leading up to Bell’s murder, which included a heated argument between the two men.

Assistant Prosecutor Raj Prasad showed jurors video surveillance footage from an Ecorse Road market, where Bell was seen confronting Henderson; the larger Bell shoved Henderson against the counter. Footage from the parking lot showed Bell and his girlfriend, Dereka Moss, having words with someone off-camera.

Not long after, about 12:40 a.m. April 24, Bell was shot and stumbled into White Castle, 2115 Fort St., for help. A witness testified to seeing a light-colored Chevrolet El Camino driving away from the scene shortly after hearing shots fired. Henderson was known in the neighborhood and to police as the driver of a distinctive El Camino.

Other witnesses and police officers, however, saw Henderson that day driving a different vehicle, and Johnson maintained that in spite of the known conflict between the men, the prosecution, evidence and testimony did not put Johnson at the scene.

“They took a leap of faith when they heard ‘Shannon Henderson’ and ‘El Camino,’” Johnson said.

A key witness for the prosecution was Moss, who said she and Henderson had been partying most of the day, and started drinking vodka and smoking marijuana about 9 a.m. and continuing until past midnight. Bell’s testimony was scheduled for March 15, but was delayed when she admitted to having consumed alcohol and marijuana before appearing in court.

Moss was held overnight, and Johnson said her Friday morning testimony was inconsistent with what she previously said, including statements made during the first trial. There were, Johnson said, conflicting details regarding a phone she borrowed to call police, and an argument Bell had with another man that day.

Also questioned was the time sequence at White Castle, where the video surveillance camera’s clock was proven to be about 10 minutes off, and a map of Henderson’s whereabouts based on cell phone calls, which investigators said were not necessarily exact.

After deliberating for about three hours, the jury returned with not guilty verdicts for the charges of first-degree murder, felony use of a firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)