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BR man acquitted in fatal shooting, theft

Author(s): CHRISTOPHER BAUGHMAN Date: May 18, 2002 Section: News

A jury late Friday acquitted a 25-year-old man accused of shooting a motorist at a gas station, then stealing his car.

Clarence Sheppard was found innocent of second-degree murder in the death of 31-year-old Charles R. Johnson.

Sheppard faced an automatic life sentence if convicted. The jury of eight women and four men deliberated about two hours before voting 10 to 2 to acquit Sheppard.

Johnson, 3516 Alliquippa St., died after being shot in the chest while trying to stop a man from stealing his car from a Texaco station on Plank Road near 22nd Street about 3 a.m. Sept. 12, 2000.

By 9 p.m. Friday, the jurors had been deliberating about 90 minutes after hearing a day of testimony in state District Judge Wilson Fields' court.

On Friday, Sheppard's girlfriend, Lisa Brumfield, and her mother, Jessie Mae Brumfield, both testified that Sheppard had spent the night of the killing at the Brumfield's Harry Drive apartment, miles from the killing.

"He was at my house. He came that evening and he stayed all night," Jessie Mae Brumfield testified. "He never left the house."

But prosecutor Brent Stockstill told the jury in his closing argument that neither women was believable. Both had admitted on the stand that they smoked marijuana and had pleaded guilty to a marijuana charge.

The Brumfields 1 contention that Jessie Mae Brumfield kept the only key to a dead-bolt lock on her apartment door, and did not even allow her husband of 22 years to have a key, "makes no sense," Stockstill said.

Mother and daughter were trying to cover up for Sheppard because they knew he was guilty, he told the jury.

"They're trying to do the best they can to save him, and we shouldn't let them," Stockstill said.

But defense lawyer Tommy D'amico told the jury the Brumfields were consistent in their testimony. And he tore into the prosecution's case during his closing argument.

Sheppard's fingerprints did not show up anywhere on Johnson's car when it was recovered, he pointed out. And he discounted the testimony of two prosecution witnesses.

D'amico also mocked the testimony of the state's star witness, Terry Capers, who testified that he was " 100 percent certain" that Sheppard was the man who shot Johnson and stole his car, D'amico said.

The robber wore a bandanna, D'amico told the jury, and Capers, 23, was more than 40 feet from the robbery. All he saw was the side of the suspect's head, from the ear up for five to 10 seconds.

Capers identified the shooter as Sheppard because he recognized a feature on Sheppard's head - an indentation in the shape of a semi­circle above his ears where the muscles and skull plates meet.

Capers, of 3018 Laurel St., did not know Sheppard well and had not seen him for two weeks before the shooting, D'amico told the jury.

And he said a face plate from a CD player found in Sheppard's Plank Road home was a common item that belonged to Sheppard, and not to Johnson. It made no sense that just the face plate from Johnson's car and none of the car's electronic gear would be found in Sheppard's house, D'amico said.

"Clarence Sheppard is an innocent man," D'amico told the jury. "Clarence Sheppard should not be sent to jail for the rest of his life for something he did not do."

Copyright 2002 Capital City Press, Baton Rouge, La.

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