MURPHYSBORO — As the defense presented its case in the attempted murder trial for Jody Pullen Jr., it tried to shed light on the split-second decisions it says he had to make that night in April.
Pullen, of Carbondale, is charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm related to the shooting on Washington Street in Carbondale, between Mexican restaurant and bar Tres Hombres and ABC Liquor that injured four. Police reports at the time said the shooting happened as a result of a dispute among acquaintances.
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The state, represented by Assistant State’s Attorney Jayson Clark, contends that Pullen began shooting from his car while waiting at ABC Liquor’s drive-up window after arguing with acquaintances across the alley. The defense doesn’t argue those facts, but contends Pullen began firing after he saw Traveal Sutton exit a black Ford Focus with a gun. With his girlfriend and baby in the car, Pullen acted in self-defense, his attorney, Christian Baril, has argued.
Primary witnesses for the defense Tuesday were Jaliyah Lemons, Pullen’s girlfriend who was driving the car that night, and Pullen himself.
Lemons testified that April 12 started out well. She got off work and was picked up by Pullen, who had been barbecuing for the family that day. She and Pullen shared a meal and piled into the car with their son, Drew, to get him to go to sleep after dinner.
After stopping by the bank to get some cash, the couple pulled up at ABC Liquor to buy a Swisher Sweet cigarillo.
“We had had a good day,” Lemons told the court.
While in line at ABC, Lemons said she noticed a group of other cars pulled next to Tres Hombres and a group of men walking to the liquor store. She said “they started to threaten us.”
She told Pullen not to engage, but then she saw one of the men tap on the door of a black Ford Focus with tinted windows. Then she saw Traveal Sutton get out of the back passenger side.
“He had a gun in his hands … it was black and silver,” Lemons said, choking back tears.
“I closed my eyes,” Lemons said, adding that she was afraid of what would happen when she saw the gun.
“Did you hear anything?” Baril asked.
“Shots,” Lemons replied.
She said “everybody” was firing, Pullen included.
The two fled the scene, Lemons said. Part of the way home, though, they stopped with a flat tire — a bullet had struck it. They called a tow truck and got a ride back home, where the shooting followed.
Home with the lights out, Lemons said she and Pullen saw a car pull past then heard the shots start — they were coming from the back of the trailer. She said she and Pullen, with their 1-year-old in tow, ran out the front and eventually got to Pullen’s mother’s house.
On cross examination, Clark picked her story apart. He compared the story she told police initially with what she said on the stand. He started asking why, if they were concerned for their safety, they didn’t contact the police.
He asked why, when leaving the parking lot on Marion Street in Carbondale, did she turn left to go home when she could have turned right to go to the police station. Clark asked if her cellphone had the numbers 9 and 1 on it to make the call. He asked why, if they both had phones did they not call 911 to say Pullen shot in self defense?
“I know they wouldn’t look at it that way,” she said in reply.
Clark then speculated that she didn’t call because she was scared, not of the police, but of Pullen.
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“You know what he’s capable of,” Clark said. He then recalled several statements Lemons has given to police in recent years, accusing Pullen of domestic violence. Pullen has a 2018 conviction for domestic battery.
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She didn’t deny these incidents outright, but deflected.
“When we woke up that next day, his name was already on the news,” she said as to why she didn’t call the police. Pullen had dropped her and and their child off with his mother before fleeing to Harrisburg, where he was arrested 13 days later on April 25.
When Pullen took the stand, he tried to fill in some of the blanks left by previous witness testimony. He said when he and Lemons pulled up to ABC Liquor that night, someone shouted to him a warning.
“I just got some news they were going to try and shoot me,” Pullen recalled a friend telling him before the incident. Then he said he saw Sutton get out of the Ford Focus with a gun when, at the same time, he said he heard a shot hit the car. He reacted based on this.
One key point the state has made throughout the trial is that Pullen’s statements to police upon his arrest didn’t add up. He initially said he wasn’t there that night and then said he was, but that Sutton shot first.
When Clark started down the list, he asked about telling police he was in Harrisburg the night of the shooting and that he learned about it from his mom.
“That was a lie,” Clark said.
“Yes it was,” Pullen said, matter-of-factly. “I was trying to see what they knew.”
Pullen said that after he found out the police knew some things, he told the truth. He admitted that he may have missed a few things, but got the main parts right.
“All I knew is he had a gun in his hand and my vehicle got shot. It was him in my eyes,” Pullen said.
Clark ran down a similar line of questioning as he did with Lemons. He asked why not turn to the police station instead of going home.
“Why would I go to the police station with a gun?” he replied.
Why not call 911 and say he was shot at and he shot back in self-defense, Clark asked.
“That’s not how it would have went,” Pullen said, saying he knew police would not see it his way. “That’s why I’m here in this box right now."
They then went into his night trying to get to Harrisburg. He said he first went the back roads to Murphysboro and then took back roads to Harrisburg. Clark said he could have gone to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office or the Murphysboro Police Department or to any of the police departments he passed on the 45-minute trip to Harrisburg.
“I could have did a lot of things,” Pullen said, repeating this each time Clark noted that he could have gone to each municipal or county police station.
“What help were they going to give me?" Pullen said.
Closing arguments will be made Wednesday. The trial will resume at 9 a.m.