Update 11/13 2.15 p.m.
It took the jury of nine women and three men more than five hours Wednesday to return a verdict of Guilty on all 12 counts against Kinterie Durden in the murder of Cortez White and Davoddren Harris in the fall of 2017. He was found guilty of two counts of malice murder, 4 counts of felony murder, two counts of armed robbery, two counts of felony aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
With closing arguments completed Tuesday, the jury in the Kinterie Durden homicide case began deliberations Wednesday. Alcovy Judicial Circuit District Attorney Layla Zon waived her open in closing arguments and chose to just have a closing after Durden’s attorney, Dwight L. Thomas, gave his closing argument. Thomas drew the jury’s attention to Durden’s testimony given in court Wednesday when he admitted to shooting the two victims but claimed it was in self-defense. He also pointed to the young age of Durden at just 16 at the time and said it was understandable that he was fearful of two armed, adult men when he was technically trapped in the back seat of the vehicle. He also told the jury that they could consider manslaughter as an alternative to the murder convictions. He asked that Durden be found not guilty.
Zon focused on the victims who she said lost their lives so Durden could get the dirt bike. She pointed to the text messages that indicated that the two men selling the dirt bike had not been deceptive while Durden had been, giving an address that was not his and instead of giving the money over to test ride the bike he had taken the men on a ride through Social Circle. However, Durden too was armed and ultimately was the person who used the weapon. She pointed out that he had told several stories prior to the one he told on the stand and pointed to the fact that even then he had not been truthful. In one of the stories, Durden had told investigators that the plan had been to take the bike on a test ride and then run off with it. However, the men had been clear that they wanted the money before letting him take it on a test ride. No evidence was presented on what happened to the money Durden claimed he had for the bike. She noted that bullets from a gun fired by a 16-year-old are just as damaging as those fired by a 20 or 30-year-old. She asked that Durden be found guilty on all counts.
Since it was already after 7 p.m. Tuesday when closing arguments concluded, the jury chose to come back Wednesday morning to begin deliberations.
The prosecution wrapped up Tuesday and the defense called just one witness in the double homicide trial of Kinterie Durden, 19, of Social Circle – the defendant himself. Durden recanted his earlier statements to investigators, first that he didn’t know anything about the murders or theft of a dirt bike and then that he had been present, but that it was his friend, Roger Michael Jackson, who had been responsible for the murders. He claimed the plan had been for them to run with the bike while test driving it.
On the stand, Durden admitted attempting to purchase the bike and being in the car with the two victims on Clegg Farm Road. He said when the two indicated that whether Durden took the bike or not, they were getting the money, he feared for his life and it was at that time that he shot them. Evidence was produced that the driver had a loaded gun and the passenger had a knife. Durden said he shot the driver when he saw him put his hand on the gun that was in his waistband. He also shot the passenger using all six bullets in his gun. Two hit the driver and four hit the passenger. Both men died almost immediately.
Durden said he lost consciousness when the vehicle wrecked after the two had been shot, and he left on the bike because he was traumatized by being in fear for his life and having to shoot the two men. He claimed he had the gun on him because he always carries a gun and that he had the money for the bike as a result of drug sales.
The defense rested and closing statements were to begin Tuesday afternoon following the judge’s instructions to the jury.
The trial of Kinterie Durden continues into a second week and will begin again with the final prosecution witness, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Katie Walker, retaking the stand at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11.
On Friday, prior to Walker taking the stand, Social Circle resident Roger Michael Jackson testified that he had been contacted by Durden the day of the shootings at about 3:45 p.m. and told that Durden was getting a dirt bike. He had been contacted again later and invited to come and ride a dirt bike. Call records indicated that he had been contacted a couple more times from Durden’s phone, but he said by other people using Durden’s phone before he went out to the location on Wildwood Drive in Social Circle after 6:30 p.m. to ride and took a helmet with him. He said he was invited because he used to do tricks on dirt bikes. He said he rode once, but the bike kept cutting out and he hurt his leg trying to crank it. He said Durden later brought the bike to his home at about 8:30 p.m. that same night to keep it in his garage but he asked him to remove it when he began to see police activity and thought it could be “hot.” Durden had retrieved the bike but discarded it in a wooded area behind Jackson’s home. Alcovy Judicial Circuit District Attorney revealed that Durden had told authorities that it was actually Jackson who was responsible for the shooting and alleged theft of the bike.
GBI Special Agent Walker took the stand last on Friday and will resume Monday afternoon with several hours of videotaped testimony from the defendant following his arrest. The prosecution will then rest and the defense will present its case. Alcovy Circuit Court Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn has another homicide trial next week, that of Brandon Raynard Gibbs, and will spend Monday morning picking a jury for that trial before resuming Durden’s trial. The Gibbs’ trial will begin once Durden’s has been completed.
Update 11/6 by Melanie Ann Jackson
The prosecution continued Wednesday, calling witnesses who testified to having seen a black male riding a blue and white dirt bike in the Social Circle area the afternoon of May 22, 2017. The former president of the Homeowners Association at WindSong subdivision provided the DVRs from the three cameras at the entrance to the subdivision with the visual of the blue and white bike in the bed of the truck entering and leaving the subdivision.
A police officer from the City of Covington testified he was traveling southbound on Jersey Social Circle Road going toward Social Circle when he was passed by a blue and white dirt bike on May 22.
“I saw a dirt bike with no headlights between 4 and 4:30 as he passed me heading toward Jersey. It was being driven by a black male wearing a white t-shirt and not wearing a helmet. The driver was 100% focused on his cell phone,” the police officer testified.
Another witness testified to seeing the bike in and around the same area at around 4 p.m. and identified it as a Yamaha and yet another witness, a retired law enforcement officer with 37 years law enforcement experience, testified that he and his wife were leaving the Mexican restaurant in Social Circle at about 5:30 or 5:45 p.m. They were on Highway 11 going to Newton County when he saw a motorcycle at an abandoned house with the person pushing a bike. He testified that the male was on his cell phone. He called the Walton County Sheriff’s Office because he was aware that they were looking for a bike. Another witness testified that he and his wife also saw a black male pushing a bike and pulled over to ask if he was OK. They testified that the male pushing the bike had “blood splatter” on his face.
Dr. Jacqueline Martin, the deputy chief medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, performed the autopsies on Cortez White and Davoddren Harris on May 25, 2019. She testified that Harris had two gunshot wounds to the upper body, one on the head and the other in the upper body. White was found to have 4 bullet wounds, three to the head and one in the shoulder. The range of fire was not determined in either victim. Bullets were found in both bodies.
The trial continues. The defense had not yet presented its case.
Jury selection took the better part of Monday with opening argument only beginning Tuesday in the trail of Kinterie Durden, 19, of Social Circle, accused in the murder of Cortez White and Davoddren Harris in the fall of 2017. Alcovy Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn is on the bench and District Attorney Layla Zon is prosecuting the case with the assistance of ADA Deborah Yates, who presented opening arguments.
Yates gave a timeline of the events leading up to the discovery, a little after 4 p.m. on the afternoon of May 22, 2017, of what appeared to be a wrecked Toyota Tacoma on Clegg Farm Road with the bodies of White and Harris in the front seat. It was subsequently discovered that the cause of death was not the apparent accident, but that both men had died as a result of gunshots to the back of their heads. One also had been shot in the back. Yates said that retrieved text messages between White and Harris and Durden indicated that the two men were on their way from Meriweather County to sell a dirt bike to Durden that had been advertised on Facebook Marketplace. She said the texts revealed that Durden wanted to take the bike for a test ride, but was told that could only be done once they were in possession of the $1500.
“A text message (to Durden) at 3.09 p.m. says ‘be there in 30 minutes,’ Yates said. The vehicle was seen on a security camera entering Windsong Drive where Durden was alleged to be waiting at 3.42 p.m. and then leaving again at 3.47 p.m., still with the dirt bike on the back of the truck. It was discovered wrecked on Clegg Road just outside the Social Circle city limits about 15 minutes later with the bodies of the two men in the front seat. The dirt bike was no longer on the back of the truck or anywhere else on the scene. A person matching the description of the defendant was seen riding the bike, without a helmet, not long after that and one of the witnesses reported that he had blood all over his face.
“Records show that at 4:30 (the defendant) was telling his girlfriend that he had bought a dirt bike and that he was riding it,” Yates said. He also allegedly contacted other friends and they were seen riding the bike in the neighborhood between 6 and 7:30 p.m. that evening. He allegedly asked another friend if he could leave the bike in his garage overnight as he did not have a place to keep it. By that time the word had got out about the murder and the friend had concerns and told him to come and get it.
“He did, and then just threw it in the woods,” Yates said. Durden then asked his girlfriend to come and get him and he was arrested at about 5:46 a.m. the following morning in Putnam County as his girlfriend’s house.
In his opening statement, Atlanta Attorney Dwight L. Thomas, who is defending Durden, asked the jury to keep an open mind and to remember that the defendant, who was just 16, was kept isolated and interrogated for a significant amount of time. He noted that the jury would see videos of the interrogations.
“He was 16 years old and was kept isolated. He was still a child,” Thomas said. He had, however, attempted to have the video of the interrogations suppressed at a court hearing in July.
Thomas also noted that there was a significant amount of money – $700 – iPads and other items of value, left in the vehicle questioning that it was an armed robbery. Durden is charged with two counts of malice murder, 4 counts of felony murder, two counts of armed robbery, two counts of felony aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. In wrapping up his opening statement, Thomas told the jury to let the evidence speak for itself and that the “why” would be the reason they would be able to find Durden not guilty.