The trial of Evan Donard Winston continued Friday in Carroll County Superior Court, with the jury staying after normal hours to hear from more witnesses and deliberate. Winston, of Lithonia, is charged with murder in the death of 21-year-old Kevin Woods in September 2011.
Attorneys were preparing to give their closing arguments last night before the case was sent to the jury.
During his testimony, which started at 6:15 p.m. and lasted about an hour and a half, Winston gave his side of the story.
“I’m sorry for what happened, but it’s not me,” he said. “I didn’t do this.”
Winston said he, Roudolphe “Rudy” Germain Jr. and Javier Cook had gone to Chateau Apartments on Hay’s Mill Road in Carrollton that Friday for a weekend cookout. At the cookout, he’d also planned to meet with Egim Chris Etta-Tawo, the deceased and the deceased’s brother, Branden Woods, to purchase marijuana.
The defendant testified that he was sitting in the car with Etta-Tawo and the Woods brothers when an altercation began over the price and quality of the weed.
At one point during the argument, Winston said, Branden Woods, who was seated in the front passenger seat, took out a gun and aimed it at him. Winston said he grabbed the .38 special revolver he’d had on his hip, which he said he’d brought to the cookout because he was going out of town for several days afterward.
Upon seeing Winston’s gun, Etta-Tawo grabbed the defendant’s arm and jerked, causing him to fire one round through the rear passenger door, Winston said.
Winston testified that he heard more shots but did not know who was shooting. His friend who had followed him to the car, Germain, was out of his line of vision — presumably somewhere behind him.
Throughout the weeklong trial, Winston’s legal counsel, Atlanta attorney Mawuli Davis and his Carrollton associate, Suellen Fleming, have attempted to establish for the jury that Germain — who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in December, receiving 15 years in jail — had fired the fatal shots at the driver, Kevin Woods, through Winston’s open door.
During cross-examination by Senior Assistant District Attorney Jeff Hunt, prosecuting for the state, Winston stated that he had left the scene immediately after and was driven to Lithonia, where he disposed of a gun at a restaurant.
Hunt then published for the jury Winston’s cell phone records, including transcriptions of the text messages he’d sent the day of the shooting on Sept. 2, 2011.
Winston testified that about five hours after the incident that he had been sending a girl text messages, asking if she had a boyfriend.
“So, some hours after being involved in a shooting, you had the presence of mind to be flirting with a girl?” Hunt asked.
Winston answered that he had been texting the girl, but only to “take [his] mind off what happened.”
“Yes, sir,” he said. “I was trying to put it out of my mind, and I didn’t know that anybody was hurt at the time. It was only when I saw it on the news and that I was being blamed that I found out someone was killed.”
After Winston’s testimony, the defense rested its case. It called seven witnesses Friday, including the defendant.
Judge Dennis Blackmon granted a directed verdict in one of the six counts Winston is charged in, acquitting him of one count of murder.
The man still faces two murder counts, as well as aggravated assault and possession of a firearm.
According to Inv. Chad Taylor, it is currently the belief of police that Egim Chris Etta-Tawo had set up a marijuana deal between the victim and Winston and Germain, which ended with Woods’ death. Winston and Germain reportedly drove off in a 1999 Toyota Camry.
Etta-Tawo was originally indicted, along with Winston and Germain, for the murder, but is expected to have that murder charge dismissed in consideration of his testimony in the trial, which was heard Wednesday.
In his opening statement, Davis said that Germain had been in possession of a 9mm pistol and that Woods was killed from a 9mm gunshot wound.
The defendant, dressed in a blue buttondown shirt and gray dress pants, was joined in the courtroom by several members of his family. There were also half-a-dozen members of the victim’s family present in the courtroom.
The jury was scheduled to deliberate Friday night, with a verdict expected.