Teen on trial in shooting death of Jearicka Mack
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 9:02 p.m.
The murder trial of a Gainesville teenager accused of fatally shooting an innocent bystander after a party in north Gainesville in May 2011 has begun.
Prosecutors say Dontavious Copeland, 18, shot Jearicka Mack, 15, on May 14, 2011 outside the University Lions Club on North Main Terrace. They say Copeland fired at another man, but hit Mack in a parking lot after a birthday party. Copeland was 17 at the time of the shooting.
State Attorney Bill Cervone said a first-degree murder charge is sought when the decision to use a weapon to kill is made, no matter who the intended target is, or the amount of plotting that goes into it beforehand.
“Premeditation doesn't require any particular passage of time,” he said, “as long as you make a decision. The way I explain it is — look at how quickly you can decide to change channels or hit a button on a remote.”
The trial began Monday with jury selection, with Circuit Judge Mark W. Moseley presiding. On Tuesday, lawyers gave opening statements.
Prosecutor Adam Urra and Assistant State Attorney Christopher Elsey talked about how Mack was just a teenager going to a party with a friend, and how Copeland went to the same party with a gun.
Copeland's lawyer talked about how it was a crowded area, and dark, and hard to determine what happened.
Copeland sat silent and still on the left side of the courtroom, in a green button-up shirt and blue striped tie.
The prosecution called Jo'keria Swann, 17, to the witness stand, who explained her relationship to Mack.
“She was family, my cousin, my best friend, my other half,” Swann said, adding that Mack went by the nickname Pooh.
Swann identified Copeland and said he went by the nickname Duke. She said Copeland and some others were in a gang called the Wolfpack, from Lincoln Estates.
The night of the party, she said, Copeland had a gun.
“He flashed it, but he was bragging about it and everything,” she said. In the party, she said he took it out and waved it around.
“He had it in his hand,” she said. “It looked silver.”
Then, she said, a song came on about “repping your hood,” and everyone got “hyped” and threw up gang signs.
The energy spilled out into the parking lot, and some fights broke out. Swann said she got separated from Mack, and ran toward one of the fights. Then, she heard a single gunshot.
“I said, ‘Oh, I gotta find Pooh. We gotta go.'”
A group of men, including Copeland, ran by her. One of them said, “Duke just shot Pooh...!” in a panicked voice, Swann said.
Swann then saw her friend.
“I see Jearicka lying on the ground bleeding from her mouth, not responding. I didn't know what to do. I was in panic mode, I got my phone out trying to call family members. Going crazy and running around and screaming, yelling, ‘Lord, why.' ”
Another witness, William Brown, 18, said Copeland fired the gun from less than 5 feet away.
“It was in his hand,” he said. “I saw the muzzle flash.”
Later, a man named Terrance Walker took the stand. He said he has a friend with the nickname Pooh as well, and he went to the party to meet up with him. During one of the scuffles in the parking lot, one of Copeland's friends grabbed him. They both hit the ground, he said, but the two recognized each other and cooled off. When Walker grabbed the man to help him up, he heard a single gunshot, behind his back.
“I stood up and everyone started running,” he said.
He said he heard people yelling “Pooh,” so he ran against the crowd, thinking it was his friend. He saw Mack on the ground.
“Any blood?” Urra, the prosecutor, asked him.
“Yes sir,” he answered. “Her mouth.”
Walker said Mack was on the ground coughing up blood. He said she was making noise, a “gargling sound,” but she couldn't speak.
He held her in his arms, he said.
“How long?” Urra asked.
Until she lost consciousness, he said.
According to court officials, the trial could finish by Friday.