Delays continue to define the process to bring to trial Terrell Jones, who is accused of fatally shooting a Centennial man in a neighborhood in 2009 and was initially supposed to see trial nearly a year ago.
In spring 2021, the Arapahoe County District Court initially scheduled the trial to begin in October 2021 and expected that it could last more than three weeks.
The trial has long been delayed and as of mid-August was scheduled for January 2023.
In recent hearings, attorneys discussed ongoing disagreements about potential “experts” who may speak in the case and talked about whether years-old crimes in Denver could affect the scope of the trial.
Case revolved around several defendants
Andrew Graham, a University of Colorado graduate who had plans for grad school, was found shot to death about 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2009, in the front yard of a home in the Willow Creek neighborhood of Centennial near County Line Road and Yosemite Street.
A few hours before Graham, 23, was found — just before midnight — video surveillance captured Graham riding an RTD light rail train and exiting at the station near Park Meadows mall in Lone Tree. Graham had been making living arrangements in Boulder that day and would often walk from the station to his parents’ house in nearby Willow Creek a couple miles away, his mother told Colorado Community Media at the time.
Jones was arrested in March 2020, KCNC-CBS4 reported. Jones was 16 years old at the time of the shooting.
A 2016 an Arapahoe County grand jury indicted Clarissa Jae Lockhart, Allen Deshawn Ford, Kendall Adam Austin and Joseph Martin — also teenagers at the time of the shooting. The four were arrested in January 2017 in connection with Graham’s death.
Grand juries are sometimes used to decide whether authorities have enough evidence to charge a suspect.
The codefendants described a plot to rob Graham, whom they saw as “a white male who might have money,” according to the affidavit for Jones’ arrest. Jones and three other codefendants are African-American. One codefendant, Joseph Martin, was listed as American Indian on the state Department of Corrections website.
Ford, Lockhart and Austin had been linked to a string of race-motivated robberies and assaults in downtown Denver in 2009, according to the affidavit and court proceedings in the Graham case. Suspects in that rash of crimes told police they targeted white males because they assumed they had money and wouldn’t fight back or present a threat.
Lockhart and Austin pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in September 2009 incidents, and Ford pleaded guilty to a bias-motivated crime involving “bodily injury” and pleaded guilty to assault in August 2009 incidents, according to online court records.
Separately, in the case of Graham’s death, Jones was charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree felony murder, according to court records.
A count of first-degree felony murder can be charged against anyone in a group that is allegedly involved in a serious crime in which a death occurs. The charge applies even if a particular member of the group is not believed to have directly caused the death.
Planning for ‘experts’
Jones’ defense attorneys expect to make arguments based on what could be several expert witnesses in the case.
An expert witness is “a witness with special expertise in an area who is brought in by one side in a trial to explain something technical, such as medical treatment or ballistics,” according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office website.
The 18th Judicial District includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.
At an Aug. 9 court hearing, Chris Wilcox, the prosecutor and a chief deputy 18th Judicial District attorney, asked the court to strike two expert witnesses, arguing they failed to comply with the requirements for information they need to disclose.
The defense argued that scheduling and availability issues have affected their work to prepare with expert witnesses, asking the court to allow the defense to proceed with those witnesses.
What each expert witness could testify about wasn’t clear from the hearing, but one of the witnesses — separate from the two the prosecutor asked to remove — could speak about data from cellphones related to the case, for example.
When defense attorneys plan to call an expert witness in a case, they disclose information such as what the witness will talk about, what gives them expertise on the subject and what material they reviewed to form their opinion, according to Jolie Masterson, a defense attorney for Jones.
The disconnect between the defense and prosecution at the hearing centered on how much information about the defense’s preparation with potential expert witnesses needed to be shared.
Judge Joseph Whitfield did not rule on whether to strike certain potential witnesses during the Aug. 9 hearing, setting the issue to be decided later.
Denver crimes still a topic
Whitfield also said the court received filings from the Denver Police Department, but it wasn’t clear from the hearing what those filings entailed.
In a court hearing for Jones on March 29, Wilcox said there was information about four cases that his office requested from the Denver District Attorney’s Office. His office has received those records, he said.
It appeared from the March 29 hearing that those cases could relate to the downtown Denver-area crimes.
Evan Marcia Zuckerman, a defense attorney for Jones, argued the subject of Denver incidents could add to the length of Jones’ trial.
“To the extent that there was a reason, there was a reason that these Denver cases reached the kind of prominence that they did that brought the FBI in, that apparently made the Denver downtown so unbearable (for suspects due to the police presence) that they had to come out to Park Meadows, which is very essential to the prosecution’s theory of liability,” Zuckerman said during the March 29 hearing. She added: “It can’t be minimized to just a sentence.”
“We need to be a little more specific than ‘There were more police downtown, (so) they all came down south,’” Zuckerman said.
She argued at the time the defense would need more time during the trial and would need to show that “none of those issues are relevant to Mr. Jones.”
Judge Whitfield signaled the trial may not focus much on the Denver crimes, saying: “This will not be a case about some other jurisdiction.”
“What this case will not turn into is someone else’s trial,” Whitfield said. “To the extent it involves codefendants … either as witnesses or in some other way, so be it, (but) … we are not going to expand the trial beyond what was already (expected).”
The Aug. 9 discussions did not suggest that Jones was involved in the 2009 Denver crimes.
Long road to case
Despite the years it took to arrest Jones, his arrest affidavit did not mention any physical evidence that points to any of the defendants.
In court in October 2020, Zuckerman hammered on what she argued are inconsistencies in the accounts of the four codefendants.
Jones — who apparently first spoke to authorities in 2010 — has acknowledged to investigators that he knew the codefendants but has denied involvement in Graham’s death.
He admitted to having a gun around the “2009 time frame,” according to the January 2017 indictment that led to the arrest of the other defendants. He indicated before a grand jury that Ford stole that gun from him at a party, the indictment says.
Wilcox argued in October 2020 that “while the court heard voluminous statements about stories that changed,” Jones still may be found guilty by a jury.
The codefendants “aren’t just witnesses that came forward to make a statement,” Wilcox said. They are people who “put themselves as being involved in a crime.”