Detective Chris Blackwell, lead investigator of a 2016 Labor Day double homicide on Pinewood Drive, told a jury on Friday that the testimony of Jeremy Cotton, a key witness in the case against Stephen Mobley, varied greatly from an interview conducted with Cotton shortly after the shooting.
Defense attorneys, however, questioned why several pieces of evidence were not further investigated by the state, such as a traffic camera video recording, clothing collected from witness David Reed, and shell casings found at the crime scene that traced back to an earlier 2016 Chattanooga shooting.
Detective Blackwell said he interviewed Cotton on the afternoon of Sept. 6 in a patrol car outside his house. The interview was recorded. Detective Blackwell said Cotton’s demeanor during the interview was much different than in court.
"He wasn’t as scared. ... He wasn’t as emotional," he said.
Detective Blackwell told Prosecutor Cameron Williams that several of Cotton’s answers given on the stand differed from answers given during the interview. Clips of the interview were played for the jury.
During testimony in court, Cotton was asked if Mobley felt he was being used by two female victims - Jasmine Hines, 22, and Zirrshaddia Scott, 23 - prior to the shooting, to which Cotton responded, "That’s my assumption."
During the interview in 2016, Cotton told Detective Blackwell that Mobley had become upset prior to the shooting because the girls were "not putting out."
"(Mobley) was mad cause he didn’t get no d--- p----," said Cotton in the interview. "He just felt that he was being used or something."
During testimony in court, Cotton said Reed arrived at his house in a panic. Cotton said he saw someone else running down the street but couldn’t make out the figure.
During the 2016 interview, he said the figure was Mobley.
"When David came down here ... I’m gonna tell the truth ... I seen (Mobley) running," said Cotton during the interview. Later, he continued, "David Reed came out, came knocking on my door. I let him in. Not even two minutes, officer, not even two minutes, I see Dollar (Mobley) ... So I knew (Reed) was running from him."
Defense showed dissatisfaction with the state’s overall investigation. In one picture taken of the crime scene, defense attorney Steven Brown pointed out what appears to be a traffic camera on Pinewood Drive, which is angled toward the roped off investigation area.
Detective Blackwell said he did not receive video footage from that camera.
Attorney Steven Brown also asked about the clothing of David Reed. In a Facebook live video taken at his house prior to the shooting, Reed can be seen wearing the same white swim trunks that he wore to the police station the next day.
Detective Blackwell said he already had a warrant out for Mobley before Reed’s clothing was collected. He said Reed’s skin tested negative for gunshot residue, but his clothing was never sent to the TBI to be tested.
When asked if Detective Blackwell took Reed’s phone for evidence, he said he did not. He also said he was not familiar with the entirety of an interview conducted with Ms. Hines before her murder.
Defense attorney Brown said six months prior to her death, the victim’s father was murdered, as well - shot in the left temple, just like his daughter. He said Ms. Hines was present in the room for the slaying and saw the individual or individuals "that were responsible for shooting her father in the head."
Attorney Brown also asked about the front door, which was kicked in by first responders, indicating that the last person to leave had locked it.
"You didn’t take the lock off? You didn’t send it off? You didn’t have it examined by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation?" asked attorney Brown.
Detective Blackwell said this was correct. He also said that, though he made an effort to investigate whether an earlier Chattanooga shooting was linked to recovered crime scene shell cases, he chose not to submit further evidence to the TBI.
When attorney Brown asked why Detective Blackwell didn’t ask for Mobley’s cell phone when he turned himself in on Sept. 7, he said he "wasn't allowed in."
Later, the witness explained to Prosecutor Williams that he was unable to ask for Mobley’s phone - or ask any other questions about the homicide - because the defendant had "invoked his rights to not to speak with me."
Officers testified in Judge Barry Steelman’s courtroom on Friday concerning photos taken of the jury at their hotel Thursday evening.
The jury in the case has been sequestered for the duration of the trial. Judge Steelman said their privacy is of “paramount” importance.
Sometime Thursday evening, however, two of the jurors noticed a woman taking pictures as they were entering their hotel.
“We were walking through the back entrance of the hotel, and there was a lady standing near the back entrance,” said one of the court officers.
He said the woman was Caucasian and had a young granddaughter with her. Both of them were in bathing suits. The officer explained that the woman apologized and told him she had erased the photos. She was aware, however, that the group she was photographing were jurors.
Judge Steelman individually called each member of the jury into the courtroom, asking if they had learned anything about the case or if anything of interest had happened the previous night.
One juror expressed emotion about the heavy burden of responsibility.
“It’s overwhelming,” the juror said. “If I could be dismissed, I’d appreciate it.”
Judge Steelman determined that the juror would be able to continue and deliberate effectively at the end of the trial. The juror was not dismissed.
Two of the other jurors said they had seen the woman suspected of taking photos.
“(She) was, in my opinion, very obviously trying to angle her cell phone,” one juror told officers. “She was trying not to look at us.”
The jurors who saw the woman taking photos were advised not to speak to other members of the jury about the matter.
A Chattanooga police officer called to the hotel Thursday evening also appeared in court to testify.
“It was my understanding that there was nothing criminal about this,” she said.
The woman taking photos told the police officer that she was actually trying to photograph one of the court officers, who looked like someone she knew, and that the jurors' faces couldn’t be seen in the photo she took.