MURPHYSBORO — A day of dynamic testimony was marked by big inconsistencies as the state presented evidence in Day 2 of a trial for a man accused in an April 12 shooting in Carbondale that injured four people.
Jody Pullen Jr. 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.
The day opened with Shamaria Lilly recounting her memories of that night. She told the court that she was at Tres Hombres having a drink with friends in the beer garden. She was making up a fajita when she heard shots ring out and she hit the floor. She was struck in her right leg.
John Diamond took the stand next, recalling his night with friends at Tres. He admitted not seeing who shot him, but told the court that he heard people cry out that the pops they were hearing were firecrackers. As a military veteran, he said he knew the difference between firecrackers and gunshots — he shouted for everyone to get down.
As he lay on the ground, bleeding from his injury — he was shot in the right buttock — Diamond remembered a young woman coming to his aid.
“She just had terror in her eyes,” Diamond said.
But events during Diamond’s testimony drew controversy. Judge Ralph Bloodworth III announced multiple times to the court that the “rule on witnesses” was in effect — any person who was to testify during the trial could not sit in the spectator’s gallery. If they did, they could be barred from testifying.
It was during the first quarter of Diamond’s testimony that state’s witness Jajuan Smith came into the courtroom and stayed until he was called by the state. This prompted the jury to be excused as a sidebar hearing took place.
Pullen’s defense attorney, Christian Baril, argued that the rule was in place for a reason and that Smith should not be allowed to take the stand. Smith was to testify that he was shot in the head and fled the alley when the shooting started.
Jackson County Assistant State’s Attorney Jayson Clark said his testimony would not overlap with Diamond’s and that whatever he heard would not influence what he would say.
Ultimately, Bloodworth sided with the state.
“You broke your own rule,” Pullen said to family about Bloodworth’s decision during a court recess.
Smith later testified that he did not know Pullen and didn’t know many people he was with that night — he and at least two cars full of people were heading to East St. Louis that night for a concert. They had stopped to pick up some supplies at ABC Liquor when the shooting took place.
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Clark had Smith watch the same surveillance footage played during the first day of trial. He asked Smith to find himself in the chaos of the shooting and to point out where the shots came from — muzzle fire could be seen coming from a gun outstretched from the passenger side window of an SUV in line at the liquor store drive-up window.
Clark made it a special point to say that no other guns were seen firing, but most of the incident takes place either at the edge of the video’s frame or off screen.
During cross-examination, Smith told Baril that he barely knew another witness and victim, Traveal Sutton, and certainly never sold Sutton the gun he is seen carrying in surveillance footage.
During his testimony, Sutton recalled a rough childhood growing up amidst considerable violence in Chicago and coming to Southern Illinois at age 16. He told the court that he had a fiancee and three children and knew Pullen.
It was the defense’s assertion that Pullen fired his gun that night because he felt threatened after a heated exchange with several people in the concert caravan, and made the decision to fire into that group when he saw Sutton pull out a gun. Baril also said in his opening statements Tuesday that bullet holes were found in Pullen’s car, suggesting shots were fired at him, his girlfriend and his infant son, who was in the backseat.
Sutton told the court he got out of the back of a black Ford Focus parked along Tres Hombres only to hear gunshots and hit the ground — he was hit in the hand and the leg. After the shooting stopped, he gathered himself up and went into Tres Hombres, where surveillance footage shows him entering with a limp, dropping a pistol and exiting again after scooping the gun back up.
Sutton told Clark and the court that the gun fell from his waistband — he said he carried the gun, even though he was a felon and legally prohibited from doing so, to be protected where he lived. When Clark asked where he got the gun, he initially hesitated but eventually admitted that Smith sold it to him — they had known each other for years, he said.
He told Clark that he was approached by police on the scene, but declined to tell them who shot him. He did give the officer a wink as if to say, talk to me later, alone, he said.
Carbondale Police Officer Brett Garden later confirmed that when he took the stand. He said after finding Sutton alone, he said he’d tell, but wanted something in return.
“If I tell you, can you protect my girlfriend and my kid,” Garden remembered being asked. He told Sutton yes he could. Sutton then fingered Pullen as the shooter.
During Sutton’s testimony, Clark brought out a black and red Chicago Bulls windbreaker that first responders cut off of Sutton while they treated his gunshot injuries. Sutton confirmed to the court that he was wearing that jacket on April 12 and agreed when Clark said there would be no gunshot residue found on the jacket because he had never fired a weapon that night.
However, the video footage of Sutton from inside Tres Hombres taken immediately after the shooting does not seem to show him wearing the jacket. The black-and-white footage is less than clear, but it does show stark contrast. The black and silver Smith & Wesson .9 mm pistol Sutton drops to the ground is identifiable — the silver slide is sharp against the black handle. Also, the dark stripe on Sutton’s shoes stand out against the light-colored body of the sneakers. The Nike logo and brand name are clear on another person's shirt. But the jacket Sutton wears appears to be a solid, light color. There is no contrast shown, and no words are visible.
Also, from the perspective of the spectator’s gallery, no blood could be seen on the Bulls jacket Clark presented and none was pointed out by the state. However, a hand wound suffered by Sutton left blood on the floor of Tres Hombres in the video.
Baril then posited that Sutton changed jackets — the Bulls jacket had no residue because it’s not what he was wearing during the shooting. He pointed out that Sutton testified he waited in a car for four minutes for the arrival of police and an ambulance. He suggested on cross-examination that this could have been when he changed clothes. Sutton denied this.
Baril also did his best to poke holes in Sutton’s testimony, pointing out potential contradictions between it and his testimony to a June grand jury. He said Wednesday that no one had told him of threats Pullen made to people in his friend group that night. But in June, according to a transcript Baril read in court, he agreed when asked if he was told Pullen threatened to kill one of his friends that night in line at ABC Liquor.
The state will continue presenting evidence at 9 a.m. Thursday.
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