Conflicting witness statements and graphic photographs of a murder victim’s body marked the third day of testimony Wednesday in Troup County Superior Court during the trial of Thomas E. Sessions Jr., 55, of LaGrange.
During the proceedings, witnesses who took the stand included the defendant, the 911 caller, a medical examiner and a Troup County Sheriff’s deputy.
Sessions testified that he shot the victim, 21-year-old Douglas Cameron, on Aug. 9, 2013, in self defense. He was first questioned by his attorney, public defender Jamie Roberts.
Sessions said that on the night of the murder, he’d been drinking at a Brown Street residence and encountered the victim, Cameron. The two talked about a $55 debt the victim claimed Sessions owed, he testified. The prosecution claims Sessions was there to buy cocaine.
He told jurors he’d already paid the debt to a companion of Cameron’s, who also testified on Tuesday. He said Cameron ordered him to pay the debt again and threatened him at gun point.
“Give it up,” the victim allegedly told the defendant with the gun to his head.
“Oh, you’re going to do it that way,” Sessions said he responded.
At this point, the victim’s companion and state’s witness allegedly reached into Sessions pocket and took money forcibly, Sessions testified. Sessions also told the jury that Cameron told him that if he approached police about the incident, he would kill Sessions and his family.
That’s when Sessions went home, grabbed a shotgun and returned to the Brown Street residence. He allegedly told the victim to return his money and not to threaten his family. Then, according to Sessions, Cameron pulled out a gun and Sessions fired one shot in self defense. Cameron was shot in the back.
Sessions then left and threw the gun into an overgrown, empty lot. He admitted he did not call police.
The following cross examination by Chief Assistant District Attorney Monique Kirby revealed that Sessions did not initially tell police he’d shot Cameron. In fact, he completely denied it. He also denied owning a gun, nor did he make any mention of Cameron brandishing a firearm.
In pretrial motions on Monday, Sessions testified that he shot Cameron because he was robbed. Later in the trial, he said he shot Cameron because he was robbed and threatened by Cameron.
Kirby showed Sessions a printed transcript of his earlier testimony in which he made no mention of the threat.
A second witness, the 911 caller on the evening of Aug. 9, testified that he lived in the Brown Street residence where Sessions and Cameron spoke before the shooting. His testimony was contrary to what was given by multiple witnesses Tuesday.
He said he’d heard Cameron threaten Sessions — not in the hallway, but outside the home in the driveway. Other witnesses have testified that they saw the two talking, but did not hear threats or see a firearm on Cameron. The 911 caller also said he did not see a gun on Cameron.
The next witness to testify, an inmate at the Troup County jail, said that four or five days after the shooting, he visited the 911 caller at his residence, where he was shown a black revolver with a brown handle — and gun that matches the description of a gun Sessions said he saw on Cameron before he shot him.
Zack Phillips, an investigator with the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, also took the stand and told the jury that just this month, Sessions approached him at the jail and told him he was being threatened by other inmates — associates of Cameron. He allegedly told Phillips they were threatening him because he shot a man. When Phillips asked him why he shot the man, Sessions told him, “because he robbed me,” and did not mention any threats made by Cameron to Sessions that evening, Phillips testified.
The state’s expert witness GBI medical examiner Steven Atkinson testified Wednesday that he performed the autopsy of Cameron and removed more than 100 shotgun pellets from the victims body. He said the wound was in the lower left back — a fact that could be crucial to prosecutors seeking to prove Sessions shot Cameron in cold blood.
By 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, both the state and defense had rested their cases. Closing arguments were expected that day, but were pushed to today by Judge A. Quillian Baldwin, who is presiding over the case.
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