MURPHYSBORO — Responding to assertions by the defense that a key witness in Jody Pullen Jr.’s attempted-murder trial changed clothes after being involved in a shooting at Tres Hombres in April, Assistant State’s Attorney Jayson Clark decided to do some last-minute research.
Pullen is charged with attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm related to the shooting, which injured four people. The shooting happened April 12 on Washington Street in Carbondale, between Mexican restaurant and bar Tres Hombres and ABC Liquor. Police reports at the time said the shooting happened as a result of a dispute among acquaintances.
The state is arguing that Pullen was the lone shooter that night. Pullen's defense, however, has said that he began shooting in self-defense after Traveal Sutton pulled a gun on him.
The defense, during testimony Wednesday, argued that surveillance video presented in court shows that Sutton had a gun. The defense also argued that a Chicago Bulls jacket, which the state presented as evidence that Sutton didn't fire his gun that night, may not be what he was wearing during the shooting.
Before bringing in the jury Thursday — the third day of the trial — prosecutor Clark told the court that police officers took a similar Bulls windbreaker into Tres Hombres on Wednesday night to conduct a test. Pullen's defense attorney, Christian Baril, had argued the day before that the jacket Sutton is wearing in surveillance video taken just after the shooting doesn't resemble the Bulls jacket the state entered into evidence. So, the police recorded new video to compare what a Bulls jacket might look like on a recording made by the same camera.
Clark said he wanted to present the Wednesday police test surveillance video as evidence because the state has a right to respond to the defense’s suggestion that Sutton changed jackets to avoid being accused as a second shooter in the incident.
Baril said he felt it was inappropriate to introduce new evidence in the middle of trial, when the points he made were about evidence that had been in the state’s possession for about six months.
Judge Ralph Bloodworth III ultimately sided with the state on the issue, but later said the defense should have the night to review the new evidence.
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What has been clear throughout the state’s evidence in the case is that Pullen was involved in the shooting while waiting in a car at the ABC Liquor drive-up window — surveillance video footage shows that clearly. But it remains unclear how it started and whether Pullen was the only shooter.
During Thursday testimony from Carbondale Police Detective Aaron Baril, Clark asked him to review footage of Sutton dropping a gun in Tres Hombres after the officer noted that black-and-white cameras can skew colors. Clark had him look closely at the jacket. Baril said he could possibly see a seam at the middle of the jacket, but beyond that, he couldn't be certain about anything else.
“I can’t make it out,” he said when Clark asked if he could read any writing on the jacket.
Baril was one of the officers who interviewed Pullen after he was arrested April 25 in Harrisburg. In the interview tape, parts of which were played in court, Pullen seemed to be fishing for what officers knew of the incident. His story shifted from his not being present, to being there but acting in self-defense. His account of events also got more and more specific as the police released more and more details. Baril said this is common — it can take time to get someone to tell the whole truth.
However, defense attorney Christian Baril capitalized on one element of Pullen’s interview: He was able to identify the gun he says was pulled on him that night — a black and silver Smith & Wesson .9mm pistol — before he was shown the video of Sutton dropping it inside Tres just after the shooting.
That would seem to back up Pullen's version of events — that he started shooting when he saw Sutton flash a gun in the alley between ABC Liquor and Tres Hombres. Video footage showed Pullen had been arguing with people from the passenger-side window of a car before he began shooting. But, the video did not clearly show much else.
Other questions from the state tried to draw out whether Pullen could have seen the surveillance video from inside Tres Hombres before his interview with police. Clark tried to show it was possible in the scope of the police investigation that parts of the surveillance video could have been shown to potential witnesses or victims and later described to Pullen. All testified that while it was possible, they were unsure if it happened during the course of the investigation.
Friday’s testimony, set to start at 9 a.m., will likely reveal the resulting test video made to resolve the jacket question, and will also feature scientific evidence taken from the scene.