Without a smoking gun, or any gun for that matter, jurors had to rely on the week’s trial testimony and circumstantial evidence to determine Jamar Angel Jackson’s fate in the October 2019 shooting death of Tahiba Willis outside a now-closed Lawton nightclub.
As 6 p.m. came and went, the seven men and five women of the Comanche County jury continued to deliberate their verdict.
Jackson, 21, has been on trial for first-degree murder. Before going into deliberations Wednesday afternoon, they were also given the option of finding him guilty of second-degree murder. Acquittal was another option.
After four hours of deliberation, the jury determined Jackson was guilty of second-degree murder and recommended he serve 17 years in prison. Due to the violent nature of the crime, any sentence would have to be served 85 percent before consideration for parole.
Jackson requested a pre-sentence investigation. Newburn set his formal sentencing before District Judge Gerald Neuwirth at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 14.
During the day’s closing arguments, defense attorney Al Hoch Jr. argued the prosecution was trying to make a jigsaw-puzzle work that was missing pieces.
Hoch argued that witness testimony from Eric Titus and Sarah Culpepper wasn’t valid. He also argued that police not following leads to other potential suspects was due to them pinning the crime on Jackson.
“Here, there is a textbook dictionary version of reasonable doubt,” he said. “And you’re supposed to ignore all that, you’re supposed to ignore missing pieces you have to ignore … in order to convict like they want you to.”
Titus, who had gone to the G-Spot, 1714 Cache Road, first told investigators he didn’t see what happened when Willis suffered gunshot wounds to the chest and leg. He then told police he’d gone outside the club and waited for Jackson, who had what he called an exchange of gang signs with Willis on the dance floor, for about 5 minutes. He testified that when Jackson came outside, he crouched down and waited for Willis, pulling a gun from his satchel and opening fire before the two took off running westbound away from the scene.
Hoch said Titus was the only one bringing a “gang element” into the case. He and Jackson are from the 107 Hoover Crips and Willis was affiliated with the Neighborhood Crips.
Hoch said police were leveraging Titus to identify Jackson with pending court cases he had. During her rebuttal, Assistant District Attorney Christine Galbraith noted that Titus is not an informant for the police and isn’t receiving a deal for leniency with his testimony.
Culpepper’s testimony was also questioned by Hoch. She testified she’d seen Jackson inside the club. He was wearing a black Nike shirt with a distinctive gold swoosh logo. She told investigators she hadn’t seen tattoos on the suspect. Hoch pointed out his client has his arms sleeved and his neck and face are prominently tattooed. She’d not picked Jackson from a lineup before. He alleged she was prodded to pick Jackson from a second lineup.
“That’s how Mr. Jackson gets pulled into this fiasco,” he said.
Security video from inside the club showed that Titus’ timeline about leaving and Jackson’s delayed exit was confirmed. It was shortly after Jackson left the venue that Willis was seen leaving. Within about 30 seconds, a rush of people who’d just exited rushed back inside the venue. It was after that another man known as “Little Razor” who Hoch said could have been the actual shooter was seen leaving the building.
Another video from a business west of the club showed a rush of people racing away from the gunfire. Titus and Jackson were seen among them.
Hoch argued a time differential to the club security video of one hour and 15 minutes made its strength as evidence a weakness.
“You can’t guess somebody into prison,” he said.
Galbraith reminded jurors that investigators determined the time hadn’t been changed since the one-hour change for daylight savings time and the 15 minutes accounted for “bar time” where bars adjust their clocks forward to get people out of the bar before 2 a.m.
Although Hoch asked, “Where is the gun?” Galbraith said Jackson was seen on video running with his satchel and the gun was most likely inside it. He then went to Dallas, Texas, for the next month before returning after learning he was wanted for the murder via a Crime Stoppers social media post. The gun has not been recovered.
Galbraith asked the jury to take the witnesses and the evidence as they come and know that no witness is perfect.
“Consider the evidence as a whole,” she said.
Culpepper had testified she was in her car when the shooting happened. Backed into the parking spot, she told of seeing Titus outside waiting for Jackson. She also testified, as did Titus, that Jackson squatted down when he came outside and when Willis came outside, Jackson popped up and began shooting.
“She knows what she saw,” she said. “She saw it all happen right in front of her.”
Galbraith said Willis died because of a supposed disrespect between him and Jackson. Was that reason enough for what followed, she asked.
“So, who deserves to be murdered?” she said.
After two hours of deliberation the jury returned to the court to ask if they could view the video of Titus and Jackson running away from the scene in slow motion.
Two hours later, they would pass their judgment.