A Monroe man arrested for participating in an execution-style killing in southern Monroe last month has waived his right to a jury trial in favor of having Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Larry Jefferson decide his fate.
Monroe attorney Kevin Johnson represents the defendant, Devontae Demarcus Coleman, 21, of Monroe, and informed the court during an Oct. 3 hearing that Coleman would file a jury trial waiver in a host of criminal cases against him, including two separate counts of second-degree murder, arson and other charges.
That means Jefferson, not a jury, would determine the verdict in the two cases alleging second-degree murder and other cases.
In recent years, Jefferson has earned notoriety for ignoring jury verdicts in two homicide cases. In a case against Michael Barnett Jr., Jefferson set aside the jury’s verdict of second-degree murder and replaced it with a manslaughter conviction. In a separate case against Eric Nabors, Jefferson switched the jury’s verdict of second-degree murder with negligent homicide. When an appeal court reversed him, Jefferson granted Nabors a new trial. Higher courts have since ordered Barnett and Nabors to serve life sentences for their murder convictions.
The matter of Coleman waiving trial by jury surfaced during a hearing to consider two motions filed by Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew’s office: a motion to revoke Coleman’s bond on previous charges and a motion to hold Coleman without bond in light of the recent second-degree murder charge.
Coleman faces a charge of second-degree murder for allegedly killing Darrell Stevenson on Sept. 20. Police are still seeking information about Robert Kim Coleman, 37, of Mesquite, Texas, who also is wanted on a second-degree murder charge over Stevenson’s death.
Arrest warrants indicated Devontae Coleman helped Robert Coleman kill Stevenson in retaliation for the death of Christopher Coleman. Christopher Coleman was Robert Coleman’s brother and Devonate Coleman’s uncle.
Christopher Coleman was shot and killed Sept. 14 on South 6th Street. Devontae Coleman and Robert Coleman retaliated nearly a week later, according to arrest warrants. Police say Robert Coleman shot Stevenson first and Devontae Coleman walked over to the injured Stevenson and fired the killing shot.
About 20 to 30 officers from the Monroe Police Department attended the Oct. 3 hearing in State of Louisiana v. Devontae Demarcus Coleman. Jefferson noted that many of them were not witnesses but had voluntarily attended the hearing.
After hearing testimony from the lead investigator into Stevenson’s death, Jefferson ruled that Devontae Coleman would be held without bond pending a trial on the charges against him.
As previously reported by The Ouachita Citizen, court documents showed Devontae Coleman has violated his court-ordered curfew and freely ventured beyond the boundaries set by the global positioning system, or GPS, monitor attached to his ankle.
“He appears not to listen because I admonished him strongly at a previous court hearing,” said Jefferson, of Devontae Coleman’s curfew violations.
about recent shooting
Assistant District Attorney Nick Anderson called Monroe Police Det. Doug Lambert to testify about evidence surrounding the deadly shooting on Sept. 20 at South 5th Street and Winnsboro Road. The testimony showed why Devontae Coleman should be held without bond, according to the district attorney’s office.
The shooting occurred outside Miller Funeral Home where three wakes were being observed, according to Lambert. Video surveillance footage from two businesses on each side of South 5th Street showed the shooting.
“There were a lot of people,” Lambert said.
The investigation revealed the victim, Stevenson, was driving a vehicle when approached by Robert Coleman. According to Lambert, Robert Coleman spoke with Stevenson, who later tried to flee in his vehicle. Devontae Coleman drove a Dodge Charger in front of Stevenson’s vehicle, to block him from leaving. Robert Coleman, who was described as “very upset,” produced a gun and shot Stevenson several times through the car’s back window, according to the warrant.
“Once Stevenson was shot he fell out of his vehicle face down on the ground,” stated the warrant.
The driver’s side door of Stevenson’s vehicle passed over him as his vehicle traveled, unmanned, in reverse into the ditch, according to Lambert.
The warrant for Devontae Coleman’s arrest accused him of hurting Stevenson and being involved in the incident leading up to Stevenson’s death.
“Devontae Coleman threw a brick and struck Stevenson and then kicked him three times in the head,” stated the warrant. “Coleman blocking in Stevenson directly (led) to him being shot and appeared to be part of a planned attack on Stevenson. This attack was in retaliation for the death of Devontae Coleman’s uncle.”
During his testimony in court on Oct. 3, Lambert indicated Devontae Coleman took a more active role in Stevenson’s death by firing the final shot that killed him.
Initially, Lambert said he believed it likely that Devontae Coleman shot Stevenson.
“I think he shot him,” said Lambert, who gestured toward the floor like he was pointing a gun. When Devontae Coleman made this motion, Lambert demonstrated, Stevenson’s body planed out, he said.
During questioning, Devontae Coleman did not say much, Lambert said.
“He insinuated this happened because we didn’t do anything, this happened because of his uncle,” said Lambert, referring to the late Christopher Coleman.
A gunshot residue test on Devontae Coleman’s hand after the incident returned positive, Lambert said.
When asked how he identified Devontae Coleman in the video, Lambert said, “Some of the guys had dealt with Devontae Coleman before. They said it looked like Devontae.”
Devontae Coleman was wearing the same clothes showing in the video when he was arrested.
Lambert was tendered as a witness for the defense to question. Johnson, Coleman’s attorney, claimed he had seen a video of the incident as well, though he reported seeing only three people. Devontae Coleman was not seen in the video, said Johnson, provoking an objection from the district attorney’s office that Johnson could not testify.
Johnson challenged several of Lambert’s statements, whether concerning Devontae Coleman’s participation, Darrell Stevenson’s fall to the ground, or Devontae Coleman’s selection of a brick from the ground to throw at the victim.
“You gonna stand on that today?” Johnson said. “You saying he was on his hands and knees?”
“You’re saying the car rolled backwards? You’re saying you think Devontae Coleman shot him?” he added.
Lambert noted that an autopsy would show bullet entrance and exit wounds, though the autopsy has not yet been completed.
“He’s on his hands and knees until Devontae walks up and touches him or appears to shoot him,” Lambert said.
In light of Lambert’s statements, Johnson asked for a brief recess for lunch so he could present a video recording of the shooting to the court.
When court resumed, Lambert, Johnson, Jefferson and Anderson viewed the recording on a television screen turned toward the dock.
Johnson was quick to correct Lambert, though that earned him a correction from the court. For example, Lambert identified one of the individuals wearing a white shirt in the video as Joseph Coleman, apparently another one of Devontae Coleman’s uncles.
“You just said that’s Devontae Coleman in the white shirt,” Johnson said.
Jefferson corrected Johnson for not listening: “That’s not correct.”
Lambert narrated the events of the video, pointing out when Stevenson fell to his hands and knees or when he planed out, or when his car rolled backwards. Lambert also objected to the poor quality of Johnson’s video.
“I’ve got the whole video, not just the pieces,” Lambert said. “Was this downloaded from a cell phone?”
“Yes,” Johnson said.
“Ours is a little better,” Lambert said.
During the brief recess, Lambert said he reviewed the full video at the police station and could confirm Devontae Coleman used a gun to finally kill Stevenson. Again, Johnson tried to correct Lambert by claiming that Lambert had concluded Devontae Coleman shot Stevenson in the head. Lambert noted he never said Stevenson was shot in the head.
Johnson called Devontae Coleman’s mother, Shawnta Coleman, as a witness. She was not present.
Jefferson ultimately revoked Devontae Coleman’s bond pending a trial.
“He’s been in jail for a while,” Jefferson said. “I had admonished him about a curfew violation or a zone violation. I told him to behave himself.”
Joseph Cage, with Innovative Monitoring Network, testified that Coleman had violated the curfew and house arrest restrictions imposed on him by the court.
Earlier this year, the court ordered Coleman to observe a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and wear an ankle monitor that tracked Coleman’s location through global positioning system, or GPS, data. In August, the curfew was loosened to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
According to Cage, any violations of Coleman’s curfew or zone restrictions would be sent to Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Johnson. Coleman had “multiple inclusion zone violations.”
“It means that he was not inside the zone we had geo-fenced around his house,” Cage said.
Coleman also violated his curfew twice on Sept. 15 and Sept. 19, according to Cage. On those dates, he did not return home until 2:49 a.m. and 10:38 p.m. respectively.
Probable cause hearing
for arson charges
Earlier in the hearing, the district attorney’s office presented evidence to support charges against Coleman stemming from two fire incidents on Jan. 1, 2017.
Monroe Fire Investigator Tommy James was called to testify and provide evidence about the arson charge against Coleman.
James took over the investigation of suspected arson incidents after arson investigator David Hill retired. Though Hill was the responding investigator to the incident scene, Hill has since died.
James estimated the damage to the neighborhood Wal-Mart on North 18th Street to be about $25,000. Store videos and screen captures showed subjects shooting roman candles near the store’s paper products aisle, according to James.
The store had to shut down for a couple of hours because of the fire, he said.
When asked whether Coleman admitted to shooting roman candles or participating in the events that led to the fire, James said, “I think he admitted to it in an interview at Monroe police station.”
When pressed further about whether Coleman fired a roman candle, James said he believed Coleman said, “We did what we did” during a recorded interview.
Later, Jefferson also questioned James about whether Coleman said he took part in the incident.
James confirmed Coleman said he participated in the events leading to the fire.
Coleman was charged with criminal conspiracy because Wal-Mart was not selling fireworks at the time. That meant the suspects purposefully brought fireworks into the store from somewhere else, according to Anderson, the assistant district attorney.
James was tendered as a witness to the defense, at which time Coleman’s attorney, Johnson, questioned how James arrived at the damage estimate of $25,000. James said the manager provided that estimate, based on damage to actual goods and the estimated loss of sales during the hours for which the store was shut down.
“So that’s his speculating?” Johnson said.
“That’s what he told Investigator Hill,” James said.
Ouachita Parish sheriff’s Det. Reginald “Reggie” Smith also testified about a separate arson charge stemming from a complaint of fireworks discharged at a store on Reddix Lane. One woman inside the store was struck by the fireworks, declined to press charges and left the store.
According to Smith, none of the suspects admitted to shooting the fireworks. When questioned, each suspect – including Coleman – simply said, “I was just there,” according to Smith.
Jefferson determined there was probable cause to charge Coleman with simple arson (not aggravated arson) and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. Jefferson found no probable cause for the criminal conspiracy charges against Coleman.