Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Georgetown, SC: Georgetown murder trial: Defense offers guilty plea, then withdraws

GEORGETOWN S.C. — The excitement of Christmas week was shattered for a 10-year-old child and his family in 2009 as he watched his father gun down his mother’s boyfriend in their apartment on Rainey Drive in Georgetown.

That is the testimony the jury heard Tuesday on the first day of the murder trial of 31-year-old Antonio Thomas.

He is accused of shooting and killing 31-year-old Irone Michael Canteen inside the apartment of his ex-girlfriend two days after Christmas in 2009. Canteen — known as Mikey — was the boyfriend of Thomas’s ex-girlfriend, Ramona Reed.

Thomas, represented by Stuart Axelrod, is charged with murder, burglary, assault and battery with intent to kill and kidnapping.

It looked at first as if there would be no trial.

Before the jury was seated Tuesday, Axelrod told the judge that Thomas had decided to plead guilty to the charges. However, when he was asked if he wanted to enter a guilty plea, Thomas said, “No sir.”

Also, the judge questioned a witness who said she saw one of the jurors in the case speaking with family members of Thomas during a lunch break Monday.

That juror was brought into the courtroom and, when asked, denied having any conversations with the family.

Deputy Solicitor Erin Bailey said because of the testimony by the witness, the juror should be excused from the case but Axelrod said the juror appeared to be honest and should continue to serve.

The judge allowed the juror to remain on the panel.

During his opening remarks, Deputy Solicitor Brad Richardson said Thomas “pressed the gun” against Canteen’s head and pulled the trigger.

Child testifies

The 10-year-old son of Thomas and Reed was the first to take the stand on behalf of the state.

With a very noticeable nervousness in his voice, he told what he saw on the day of the shooting.

He said he and his brother, mother and Canteen — known as Mikey — were in the apartment when Thomas burst through the door.

“Mikey was going to the door. The door opened. It was a shadow on the wall. I heard fighting,” the child said.

He told the jury he saw his dad holding “a shiny object” which he later testified was a gun.

“He pulled it out. I heard a ‘POW’ sound. I saw Mikey on the floor,” he said, adding he and his brother ran to the nearby apartment of Shanelle Green for safety.

It was also said while the child was on the stand there was a struggle between Thomas and Canteen before the gunfire.

That testimony resulted in further questioning by Axelrod.

“Is it true Mikey swung first at your daddy?” Axelrod asked.

“Yes sir,” the child answered but when asked a second time, he said “no.”

“Is it true Mikey started beating up your daddy that day?” Axelrod asked to which the child said he did not know.

The child also testified he was at his uncle’s house the day of the shooting when his dad showed him a handgun. However, he said he does not remember his dad making any verbal threats.

Testimony of Reed

Reed, who dated Thomas for about ten years before breaking up with him in 2008, testified she had a restraining order against him so he was at her apartment illegally.

She also testified there were times Thomas threatened her after their breakup.

“He said he would shoot up the house with me and the kids in it,” she said.

Reed said on the day her boyfriend was killed, she had left the apartment to go to her mother’s house to get some banana pudding.

About 10 minutes after she returned Thomas “burst” through the door. She said Canteen was on the phone talking with her mother when Thomas forced his way inside.

She said after Thomas shot Canteen, she ran out the door with Thomas in pursuit. Outside she tripped and fell and then Thomas stood over her.

She said Thomas pointed the gun at her but did not pull the trigger.

Richardson, during his opening, said Thomas ran off when he heard voices outside.

“But for guardian angels, she would be gone too,” Richardson said.

The state also called other witnesses Tuesday, including law enforcement officials.

The case resumed at 9:30 a.m. today and is expected to conclude Thursday. Read updates on this Website under “breaking news.”

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