RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — One of three men accused of killing 9-year-old Markiya Dickson at a Richmond public park last May faced a jury this week. On day three of the trial, Jermaine Davis was found guilty of second-degree murder, two counts of malicious wounding, and two related firearm charges.
Thursday evening, the jury recommended he spend 33 years behind bars. That sentence includes 20 years for second-degree murder and 13 years for the other related charges. He is scheduled to be formally sentenced on February 18.
The trial was expected to last two days at the John Marshall Courthouse in Richmond. A potential verdict was initially projected to come on Wednesday.
In May of 2019, Markiya Dickson was struck by a stray bullet while at a Memorial Day cookout with her family in Carter Jones Park. Dickson later died at the hospital. An 11-year-old boy and a man survived after being hit in the crossfire.
The two other men accused, Jesus Turner and Quinshawn Betts, face the same charges. Betts is Davis’ brother.
This spring, a judge found 19-year-old Betts guilty and he was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Turner’s trial was also scheduled for this spring but was moved to January of 2021.
During opening arguments, the Commonwealth argued that Davis played a role in Dickson’s death and deserved to be convicted. The defense argued that Davis was running away and heard the shots behind him, but was not part of the shooting.
“She was shot in her back, bullet went straight through her heart, and she didn’t have a chance,” the state said.
The prosecutor, Caitlin Kelly, said the shooting began at a basketball court after an argument involving the three men who were charged, and another man. Kelly said the shooting happened because of long-standing “beef” between a the man and a family member of one of the three men charged.
They said 23 bullets were fired.
As Richmond Police investigated and located the man who wasn’t charged, prosecutors said he gave police his gun. Twenty-three shell casings were found on the scene, one from the man not facing charges and 22 from three other guns, according to the prosecutors.
The state said that four guns were fired, adding that one was from the man responsible for one shot, whose identity prosecutors would like to keep secret for safety reasons, and the others belonged to the three men who were charged.
The Commonwealth said the additional shooter was shooting in the opposite direction — toward the men — so his bullet didn’t go into Markiya Dickson. The defense had initially argued he was the one who took his gun out first.
“He did not participate in the shooting, wasn’t involved in the beef,” Davis’ defense attorney, Leonard McCall said about his client.
Witnesses who testified on Tuesday included a pediatric surgeon who tried to save Dickson’s life, an off-duty officer, a responding officer and the anonymous shooter. More people are expected to testify on Day 2 of the trial. The verdict is expected the same day, Wednesday.
The case against 21-year-old Jermaine Davis continues. A potential verdict could be reached today.
The first witness of the day was the young boy who was shot in the arm at the same time: Jacquez Evans Moses. He was 11 when the crime happened and is now 13. He testified for the Commonwealth’s case on Wednesday.
“I thought it was fireworks,” he said, referring to the gunfire erupting that day. The young boy added that he saw just one person with a gun. He said smoke was “coming out of the gun.”
Moses said he didn’t immediately realize that he’d been shot. “Somebody told me I was bleeding,” he told the jury.
The next witness to testify on Wednesday was the lead RPD detective on the case. His testimony focused on the investigatory process after the shooting happened. He said the main difficulty while investigating was that the park was so crowded, it was difficult to tell who exactly was there. He said many people fled the scene but he was able to talk to some witnesses. According to the detective, he is certain that the anonymous shooter was not responsible for killing Markiya because statements from eyewitnesses “corroborated what [he] was saying,” the detective said.
The next witness was an investigator with RPD. He mainly testified to where the bullet casings were found and to the firearms that were recovered.
The fourth witness of the day took the stand around 11:00 a.m. He works for the Department of Forensic Science and testified as an expert on firearms and cartridge cases after examining evidence from the shooting. Afterwards, the assistant medical examiner took the stand and explained his autopsy report of Markiya Dickson.
The defense attorney, McCall, then moved forward with a motion to dismiss the first degree murder charge. The judge denied his request.
The defense then moved on to call their witnesses. The first two to testify were doctors with knowledge of a medical condition regarding Davis’ leg which left him in a boot and on crutches at the time of the shooting.
Then, Davis took the stand to testify for himself.
After the shooting started, “I was going to get away,” he said. Davis echoed the same message that his attorney laid out during opening arguments — that he had nothing to do with the shooting and allegedly ran away when he heard shots fired. He said he didn’t know who was shooting, didn’t see any guns, and said he did not have a gun.
Kelly then began questioning Davis. He admitted that he lied to investigators several times after he was arrested. On the stand, he also admitted to telling police that he had not been to Carter Jones Park in two years. Later, he changed the story and told police that he was at the park early that afternoon. Eventually, he admitted that he was there at the time of the shooting.
“You knew that a little girl was killed, you know that you were there, and you didn’t feel it appropriate to tell [detectives what happened],” the prosecution said, harrowing down on Davis.
“I was afraid to tell them any information.. I didn’t want to get me or my family involved,” Davis said.
Throughout the trial, the judge ordered that journalists and family members of the victim couldn’t hear attorneys make motions to strike. That is not standard and out of the ordinary. 8News later learned that a judge denied two separate attempts from the defense to strike a charge.
During closing arguments, Kelly began by saying, “This is a very serious case, but also a very simple case.” She repeated evidence that 22 rounds were fired into a group of families with children.
“This is the kind of thing that you see on the news in Chicago…and it’s hard to imagine something like this happening in Richmond,” she said. “He is a liar who is trying to cover up the heinous crime that he committed. We should not believe anything that he said,” the prosecutor said.
“Justice for Markiya is in your hands,” she added.
Kelly said prosecutors didn’t believe the three men charged tried to kill Markiya. At the end of the trial, the prosecution wasn’t able to provide definitive evidence that Davis’ bullet killed Dickson. The defense pointed to that fact multiple times as well.
However, the prosecution justified their first degree murder charge by saying “nobody fires 22 bullets and does not intend to kill.”
In the defense’s closing argument, attorney Leonard McCall said the prosecution’s case was an “irresponsible investigation, period.” He pointed to shortfalls in the state’s case, including the lack of DNA evidence.
“No DNA, no confession, no evidence, nothing,” he said. McCall said that the investigation is incomplete and doesn’t do Dickson justice.
He said that the prosecution doesn’t don’t know what actually happened, and therefore can’t convict a man.
A verdict is expected on Thursday. The jury deliberated for roughly two hours on Wednesday night and the judge sent them home around 7:30. They picked up deliberations Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m.
The jury stopped deliberating to ask the judge a question around 10:30. Attorneys told 8News that jurors asked for a clearer definition of reasonable doubt, if they can or should make a decision based on solely the prosecution’s case, and if they can or should decide the case based on their own personal interpretation of what happened.
Jurors picked up deliberations shortly after.
On Thursday afternoon around 3:00 p.m., the jury found Davis guilty of second degree murder, two counts of malicious wounding and two related firearm charges.
Attorneys then argued for sentence lengths that they felt are appropriate. After that, the jury began deliberating how long they want to see the now 22-year-old man in prison. In Virginia, a second degree murder charge can span from five to 40 years behind bars.
On Thursday a recommendation was made to the judge that Davis should spend 20 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge, and 13 years for other related charges. He will be formally sentenced on Feb. 18, 2021.
In September, his brother, Quinshawn Betts, was also convicted of second-degree murder for the crime and will serve 22 years behind bars.
After the verdict was read, Dickson’s parents took the stand to tell the jury how their daughter’s death has changed their lives.
Her mother, Ciara Dickson says she still can’t sleep. “I went to sleep last night crying, and I woke up crying,” said the mother, through tears. She says it’s hard to see Markiya’s sister struggling without her and living in fear of going outside.
“She had a nightmare that someone was going to kill her, we said it’s okay we will protect her….And we couldn’t protect her from this,” Dickson said.
While on the stand, Markiya’s father Mark Whitfield said, “It’s tough so sit here and talk about it, really.” Whitfield said he felt helpless as a father who wasn’t able to protect his child.
“I can’t look at pictures and videos….I was supposed to protect her,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield says they left the house that day with three children, and came back with two. “She was taken away from me and it hurts,” Whitfield said.
He says now he feels numb and like he is out of tears. “I cry on the inside,” Whitfield said.
Davis gave an impact statement following the statements from Markiya’s family. Davis maintained his innocence on the stand. He apologized, but still says he had nothing to do with the murder.
“I do feel sorry for her and her family for what they had to go through,” Davis said.
The jury came back and gave Davis 33 years behind bars.
After the decision was reached, 8News spoke with her parents. They said that they are satisfied that Davis was sentenced to more time than his brother Quinshawn Betts was, but say all three men deserve life in prison.
“It’s still not enough, because we wake up every day with one of our children missing. It hurts. It hurts. We have to deal with this for the rest of our lives. They still can come home and they’re still here. My daughter’s not here,” Dickson said.
Going forward, the couple is focused on their mission to stop gun violence in Richmond. “We can’t change the world, but we can change Richmond itself, set the bar high,” Whitfield said. “So if you kill a child, you have big consequences to deal with.”
The parents said they didn’t think Davis’ apology was sincere. “When you get caught, you’ll say whatever,” he said. “You’re so sorry, you weren’t sorry when you did it.”
The defense attorney, Leonard McCall, said they plan to appeal the convictions. “Obviously, it’s not the verdict nor the disposition that we wanted,” he said. “We came in to this case facing a first degree murder trial for such a horrific tragedy. In these types of situations, no one wins, everyone loses.”
“My client expresses his condolences to the family,” McCall said. “Being able to prevent a first-degree murder verdict under these circumstances is something that we truly appreciate from the defense side.”
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