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Updated: Wednesday, 13 Jun 2012, 10:18 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 12 Jun 2012, 11:27 AM CDT
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Michael Lee is currently standing trial for capital murder. Lee is accused of murdering Kyser Miree in 2010 during a robbery.
On Tuesday, the state called upon Bo Taylor, Jamal Lang, and Earnest Wiggins to testify, all of whom investigators said were present during the robbery.
They all testified that Lee held the gun when it went off on Miree’s head. But the defense countered that the three men could have their charges downgraded since they shared their testimony.
Each suspect faces a capital murder charge. If convicted, they each could face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Defense argued by sharing their stories, Taylor, Lang and Wiggins could face a lesser charge of murder, which carries a punishment of 20 years to life in prison.
Each man’s testimony had some slight variations from the others, and the defense thoroughly questioned each witness.
Defense attorney Art Powell said, “You assume that people testify truthfully from the witness stand, and sometimes they don’t. And obviously when they don’t, they have to be exposed."
On Tuesday morning, prosecutors called Bo Taylor to the stand.
Taylor testified that on the night of April 16, 2010, he joined Lee, Wiggins and Lang in a car while they all drove around town drinking alcohol and smoking.
Taylor said as a group, they decided to go rob somebody.
Taylor said Wiggins was the driver, and Lee sat in the front seat, while he and Lang sat in the back.
He said they went to Bel Air Mall where they found a man withdrawing money from an ATM.
In earlier testimony, that man was later identified as Marshall Thompson.
Taylor said he grabbed a .22 caliber handgun and said, “I was gonna rob him at the ATM machine.” But instead, Wiggins decided that they should follow him instead.
Taylor said they followed Thompson to Macy Place and they parked two blocks away.
He said they walked toward the house, and Lang, Wiggins and Lee each had a handgun.
He testified when they approached the home, the car was gone. Taylor wanted to leave saying, "Let's go." But he said Wiggins stated, "We ain't come over here for nothing. We gonna rob somebody."
Taylor said the group went to the home, and he and Jamal Lang stood back while Michael Lee and Earnest Wiggins went to the door.
He said Wiggins knocked on the door, and after a couple of minutes, Kyser said, "Who is it?" and cracked open the door.
Taylor said Miree realized that he didn't know the men and tried to close the door, saying, "No! No! No!" when Lee and Wiggins forced their way in.
Taylor said he followed and Lang stayed outside.
Taylor said that he, Michael Lee and Earnest Wiggins had guns pointed at Miree.
He said Lee was using a .380 automatic weapon that was owned by Jamal Lang.
Taylor demonstrated to the jury that Miree had fallen and was sitting on his rear end.
Taylor said Lee was yelling at Miree saying, “Where’s the money at?”
He said Miree didn't say anything and Lee slapped him with a gun to get him to talk.
Taylor said when Lee hit him, the gun accidentally went off, and Miree leaned to the side and fell over.
Taylor said, “(Lee’s) finger wasn’t even on the trigger. He thought he had the safety on. Everyone was in shock.”
He recalled that Lee looked at the gun and said, “I didn’t mean to do it.”
Taylor recalled that Wiggins soon said, "Let's search the house," and Taylor said, "This man's dead. I'm not fixing to search anything."
Taylor said they ran away, later went to a gas station where Lee went to the bathroom.
He said they later went to a Super 8 motel on Moffett Road to meet a mutual friend named Kevin Sanders.
Sanders ran a business selling illegal DVDs and CDs and the four suspects all had worked with him.
Taylor said in the time after the shooting, Lee had discussed the incident at Sanders’ house in the presence of his wife, Benita Sanders.
In cross examination, the defense argued that Taylor's story has changed over the two years since the crime
Defense attorney Art Powell said on different occasions Taylor told investigators that Earnest Wiggins hit Miree with the gun, and at another time, Jamal Lang hit Miree with a gun.
Taylor said he lied to the investigators at that time, saying he didn’t want to get Lee in trouble.
Taylor said testifying would, “Make me feel better. Get it off my chest.”
The defense attorney also argued that Taylor could benefit by testifying. Powell said Taylor could receive a lesser charge of murder.
Taylor said he hopes that he can plead to a murder charge instead of capital murder.
He said he hasn’t been promised anything in exchange for his testimony.
Later in the day, the state called on Jamal Lang to testify.
Lang said the group was driving around town smoking weed.
Lang said Wiggins was the driver, and Taylor was in the front seat while he and Lee sat in the back.
Lang said they spotted Thompson pulling money from the ATM and Lee said, “Let’s follow that car in case he’ll have some money.”
They followed Thompson to Miree’s house and they parked nearby.
When they approached the house, Lang said Wiggins and Lee knocked on the door. Lang said he was on the side of the house near a bush.
Lang said after opening the door, Lee forced his way in and Miree fell to the ground.
He said Wiggins, Lee and Taylor had guns and Lee demanded, “Where the money at?”
Lang said he owned the gun that Lee was using.
He said Miree was pleading, “Please! Don’t shoot! I don’t have anything!”
Lang said Lee pointed a gun at Miree’s head with the finger on the trigger when the gun went off.
Lang said they all ran away and met Kevin Sanders at the motel on Moffett Road.
Lang said he later sold his gun for $50. He said, “ I didn’t want it in my possession no more.”
Lang was questioned extensively by the defense in cross examination.
Defense attorneys argued that Lang’s account on Tuesday differed from the accounts he gave investigators in 2010.
The defense said in 2010, Lang told an investigator that during the shooting, he was sitting inside the car when he heard the gunshot and ran.
Also the defense said in 2010, Lang said that Taylor and Lee forced open the door, when on Tuesday he testified that Wiggins and Lee opened the door.
Lang said he lied that day. He said, “I was nervous (when I talked to the investigator in 2010.). I’m telling the truth today, sir.”
The defense attorney played a tape during the 2010 questioning where Lang can be heard saying, “I’m not lying, I’m telling the truth.”
Lang also told the defense that he hopes to benefit from testifying. He said, “I’m just giving the truth. The truth will set me free.”
Wiggins said on the night of April 16, 2010, Wiggins said he drove the three other men in his Buick Regal as they looked for someone to rob.
He said they spotted Thompson at an ATM and followed him to Miree’s house.
Wiggins said he saw Miree standing in front of the house.
Wiggins said he thought Lee and Taylor would jump out of the car and rob Thompson there, but instead they parked nearby.
Wiggins said when they approached the home, he knocked on the door, and they heard Miree yell, “Hey! What’s up?”
He said they immediately hid and the door didn’t open.
Wiggins said Lee then knocked on the door, and Miree opened it. Wiggins said Miree yelled, “Whoa! Whoa!” Then Lee pushed the door, and Miree fell down.
Wiggins said Lee had a gun extended to Miree’s head and Miree said, “I don’t have anything! There’s nobody here!”
Wiggins said Lee yelled, “Shut up!” And then hit Miree’s forehead with a gun. Wiggins said he heard the gun hit Miree’s head and immediately it went off.
He said Miree flew back.
Wiggins said Lee looked dumbfounded while Lang and Taylor ran away.
Wiggins recalled asking, “What did you shoot him for?”
He said they then ran off and met Sanders at the motel.
During cross examination, Wiggins told the defense attorneys that he expects to avoid the capital murder conviction by sharing his testimony.
Earlier in the morning, the state called on Benita Sanders to testify.
Sanders is the wife of Kevin Sanders, who worked with the Lee and the other co-defendants at his business selling illegal DVDs and CDs.
Prosecutors said Sanders called Crimestoppers to tell them Lee killed Miree.
Sanders testified that the four men frequently came to her house to visit her husband.
Sanders told the jury that the group had been stalking Kyser Miree for some time in his neighborhood prior to the shooting.
She said on April 16, 2010, she saw the four men wearing all black. And late that night, she saw them pull into the neighborhood and they got out screaming, “Oh man! You killed him!” And they were throwing up.”
Sanders said in the days following the shooting, Lee had been in her house and frequently spoke about the events of that night.
“I kept hearing (Lee) saying, 'I didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident,'” she said. “(I remember Lee saying) it was supposed to be a robbery…it went wrong.”
Sanders said Lee described following a guy and girl from an ATM back to a home on Macy place.
She said she heard Lee describe that Lang stood outside while Lee, Wiggins and Taylor forced their way into Miree’s house.
Sanders heard Lee describe that Miree was inside at a desk, listening to an iPod.
When inside, Sanders described that Lee held Miree at gunpoint while he was begging and crying for his life.
She said Lee hit him in the head with the gun, and it went off.
Sanders said they took off and later came to her neighborhood, looking for her husband, Kevin Sanders.
Sanders said in the time after the incident, Lee would brag about killing Miree.
Sanders said she later called crimestoppers because “it was the right thing to do.”
The defense team thoroughly questioned Sanders during cross examination.
The defense said Sanders gave testimony to an investigator after she was arrested for selling lortabs to an undercover agent.
The defense said Kevin Sanders was arrested too after officers recovered thousands of fake CDs and DVDs at the home.
Sanders had told the jury that Jamal Lang was a cousin, and the defense argued that Sanders did not like Wiggins, Lang or Lee.
“You didn’t like these guys did you?” asked the defense attorney.
“No.” Sanders said.
The defense also asked if Sanders knew anything about the $50,000 reward that was offered for information about Miree’s death.
Sanders denied knowing anything about the reward when she placed the Crimestoppers tip.
The defense showed that on at least two occasions, Sanders called authorities asking about the reward money.
The defense said shortly after she gave information, Sanders’ criminal charges were dropped.
During the day, Taylor and Wiggins contradicted information that Sanders gave.
Taylor told the defense that they never saw Sanders that day and they were not wearing all black.
He also said they had never followed Miree in the past and they didn’t tell Benita Sanders anything about the incident.
Wiggins told investigators that they did not go to Benita Sanders’ house after the shooting and they never saw her that day.
Over the course of the day, the defense team constantly worked to discredit these witnesses. Defense attorney Art Powell said, “There's only one consistent version of what happened, and that was, regardless of who took a .380 in that house or in that door, what happened from that day forward was totally unintentional. It was an accident. And the question is, who had the gun?"
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning in Judge John Lockett’s courtroom.