Jury begins deliberations in murder trial
TALLADEGA – A jury will decide the fate of a man charged with murder today, starting at 8:30 a.m.

Ryan Foster, 24, is charged with the shooting death of Cedrick “Woody” Dothard in front of the Odyssey Lounge in Lincoln in the early morning hours of March 13, 2011.

According to the medical evidence presented Wednesday morning, Dothard was killed by a single gunshot wound to the center of his chest. The wound was front to back, left to right and slightly downward, possibly after caroming off a rib. The bullet exited under Dothard’s right arm.

The bullet tore through his right lung, and Dothard was pronounced dead about three hours later at St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital. The state then rested.

Defense attorney Jon Adams recalled Lincoln Police Officer Tracy Steele, who helped load Dothard into an ambulance. Steele testified that he and Jonathon Ledbetter had been the only officers on duty that night, and that Ledbetter had gone to the club while Steele secured the car that Dothard had been transported in. Support came in from Pell City, Riverside, St. Clair County, Talladega police and Talladega County Sheriff’s Office. The St. Clair County deputies went to disperse a crowd gathering at the nearby Chevron Station and Talladega police were sent to investigate a possible gun sighting at Burger King.

Ledbetter said he initiated a traffic stop for a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road when he heard the first shots. After canceling the traffic stop, he said Steele made the shots fired call and he also helped Dothard get into the ambulance. The shooting at the club was still going on, he said.

After Dothard was safely in the ambulance, Ledbetter said he went up to the club, but everyone except the security guards had already left. He conducted no interviews and did not collect any evidence, he said.

Lincoln Police Capt. Mike Brewer said he recovered two more .40 caliber shells and one more 9 mm shell on March 14, but these were not admitted into evidence. He also said that he and Mike McBurnett, an investigator with the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, interviewed Foster when he came in voluntarily on March 15.

An attempt to impeach the credibility of one of the state’s witnesses by introducing a picture of the witness with a gun was objected to by the state, and Judge Julian King sustained the objection.

Zuykia “Coco” Glover testified that Honda employees in different sections do not take meal breaks together in an attempt to impeach another state’s witness, who said he and Foster had discussed guns over lunch. She conceded that occasionally the line would stop and employees at various sections would go to the break room together.

Glover said she heard the shots but did not see the shooting.

Gary Chapman was the club DJ that night, and said he spoke with Foster after he came in. He also said he heard shooting, but was still inside and didn’t see anything. He looked outside after the shooting stopped, and stayed until the police arrived.

Lastly, Adams called Quintavis Garrett, who previously testified that he heard Foster admit to committing the crime and giving police the wrong gun. Garrett admitted that he had been previously convicted of felony assault.

Foster did not testify.

Adams pointed to inconsistencies in the state’s witnesses’ accounts and a lack of physical evidence, particularly missing shell casings. He also chastised Lincoln police for not ordering ballistics tests or tests on Dothard’s clothing. He also tried to cast doubt on the witnesses’ testimony by pointing out how dark the lot would have been at the time.

In her closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Christina Kilgore, who tried the case with Assistant District Attorney Jake Argo, said the state’s case rested on the testimony of no less than seven eye-witnesses who either saw Foster firing the gun or saw him with the gun immediately after the shooting.

“The defendant picks the scene of the crime,” Kilgore said. “If I was to choose the scene, I would make it in a church parking lot, with the congregation and preachers and deacons all coming out into the sunlight. But he picked the scene,” she said.

What the state’s witnesses agreed on was that as the club was closing, Foster and Dorell “Slim” Gaston bumped into each other. Exactly what was said varied depending on the witness, but all agreed that Foster was either insulted or challenged, and responded. There was also agreement that he went to his car, got a black gun out from under the seat and fired shots into the air before eventually shooting Dothard, who was standing next to Gaston.

Dothard was carried to the car nearest the exit and driven to the parking lot where Steele and Ledbetter met them.

After Dothard was shot, by some accounts various club patrons began grabbing their own weapons and chaos ensued. The guards also fired several warning shots in a vain attempt to disperse the crowd.

If convicted of murder, Foster faces 20 to 99 years or life in prison.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com

© 2013