Testimony will continue Tuesday in the murder trial of a Pine Bluff man accused of shooting another man to death during a robbery in 2016.
Travis Maurice Price, 37, has pleaded not guilty to charges of capital murder, aggravated residential burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm stemming from the May 14 shooting death of Andre Eason, 26, whose body was found inside a house at 1900 S. Poplar St. Eason was pronounced dead of a single gunshot wound to the upper body.
During his opening statement for the defense, Little Rock attorney Bill Lupen said that while witnesses will say Price had a gun, there are no witnesses who will say they saw Price shoot Eason.
Prosecutors say Price and at least one other man went to the house on Poplar Street, where there was a dice game going on, with the intention of robbing the players. Prosecutors also contend that during the robbery, Eason was shot.
“There will be no testimony of who was robbed or how much money was taken,” Lupen said. “The case has major discrepancies.”
A jury of eight women and four men, including two alternates, were seated late Monday in the trial, which is being conducted in First Division Circuit Court with Judge Alex Guynn presiding.
Associate State Medical Examiner Dr. Adam Craig, who performed the autopsy on Eason, said he died as a result of the gunshot wound to the upper left shoulder, which caused damage to the chest cavity and extensive bleeding before the bullet lodged in Eason’s groin area.
“He bled to death,” Craig said, adding that the bullet was recovered and sent to another section of the crime lab for examination.
Questioned by Lupen, Craig said the shot that killed Eason wasn’t fired at close range and was “a non-contact wound.”
Before Craig testified, Pine Bluff Police Department Crime Scene Technician Meghan Wells testified that she collected a total of eight .40-caliber shell casings, two .380-caliber shell casings and a nine-millimeter pistol, which was found inside a vehicle at the scene.
She said there were four bullet holes in the walls of the house and “a money trail to the parking lot (yard) of the house.” The shell casings were found both inside and outside the house, she said. She also collected a “Swisher Sweet” cigar box that was found outside; the shell casings, two projectiles and the cigar box were all sent to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory at Little Rock for an examination.
Stephanie Gray, a latent fingerprint examiner at the crime lab, told the jury that while she was able to develop partial latent print images off the cigar box, there was not enough to make a comparison to any of the fingerprints in the system.
Asked by Lupen if she had been given fingerprints of Price for comparison, Gray said she had not.
She said that even if she had been given Price’s fingerprints, it would have done no good, based on the size of the partial prints obtained for comparison.
Also testifying Monday was Deborah Britton, a firearms and tool marks examiner at the crime lab. She said she examined the bullet recovered from Eason as well as the eight .40-caliber shell casings, the two .380-caliber shell casings, two projectiles found at the scene, the nine-millimeter handgun found in a car at the scene and eight rounds of nine-millimeter ammunition that were in the magazine of the gun.
Britton said she was not able to confirm that the bullet that killed Eason was fired from the nine-millimeter handgun but could not eliminate the possibility that it was.
“It was too close to eliminate,” she said.
Britton said she also determined that seven of the eight .40-caliber shell casings had been fired from the same weapon and could not rule out the possibility that all eight were. She went on to say that, in her opinion, at least three guns had been fired that night: The nine-millimeter, a .40-caliber and a .380-caliber.
She said there was a possibility that five guns could have been used, assuming that two different guns fired the .380-bullets and a different .40-caliber gun produced the eighth shell casing.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau and Deputy Prosecutors Jill Reed and Jay Gerard are representing the state, which has waived the death penalty in this case. If Price is convicted of capital murder, he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.