Guilty verdicts handed down in Thomas-Wilson murder trial
By: ELIZABETH WEST
After seven days of listening to eye witness and expert testimony in Judge Chuck West’s courtroom an Evangeline Parish Jury of 12 found Reokinski Thomas and Hilton Wilson guilty of first degree murder and attempted first degree murder.
Thomas, who was being represented by Roy Richard, and Wilson, who was being represented by Richard Spears, became a suspect in the murder of Joseph John and attempted first degree murder of Derrick John after Derrick made a statement to police identifying Thomas as the person he saw shooting at he and his brother on the night of July 23, 2013. Derrick’s statement though, came in October of 2013 after Derrick became incarcerated for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
When Derrick took the stand as the state’s witness, he testified that he waited three months to make a statement to police naming a shooter because he originally wanted to get revenge for his brother’s killing himself.
The state, who was being represented by Evangeline Parish Assistant District Attorney Marcus Fontenot, had the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the evidence showed that Thomas and Wilson were in fact guilty of the two charges.
To do so, the State spent five days calling its witnesses to the stand, while the defense finished putting on their case after calling only one witness to the stand.
When it came to their closing arguments the State re-stated to the jury the evidence that had been presented at the trial and what is known from that evidence.
“From the evidence, we know that an argument happened between the victim and the defendants at Laran Street earlier that day, and we know that Reokenski Thomas fired a gun at Laran St.,” said Fontenot, before he continued listing other facts that the evidence showed. “We also know that the shell casing found at Laran St. matched the 9 millimeter shell casing that was found at 119 East Washington St.”
The address of 119 East Washington is significant because that is where the shooter that killed Joseph was shooting from, which is directly across from the 120 East Washington home where the Johns were shot at.
Fontenot then said, “We also know that the bullet recovered from Joseph John came from the same gun that Mr. Thomas fired on Laran St.”
The State was even able to present the jury with DNA evidence from the crime scene.
The fence that the defendants supposedly jumped over as they fled the scene of the crime was swabbed by Ville Platte Detective Pat Hall and sent to the Louisiana State Crime Lab for testing.
Although the State’s crime lab was unable to say if the DNA was a match to either defendant, the district attorney’s office had the DNA swabs sent elsewhere for more testing. Mark Perlin, the creator of the program that was used to further test the DNA swabs from the crime scene, testified in court that his program was able to match the defendants’ DNA to the DNA that was collected from the fence at the crime scene.
The state also called Joshua Thomas to the stand to testify.
Joshua testified that while walking on Railroad Street, he saw a green car drop off two individuals around 11:30 p.m. He claimed that the two males wearing dark clothing ran through an alley way to E. Washington St. Joshua said that when he reached E. Washington St. and looked down the road, he “saw Reokinski fire a shot in the driveway of the victims home.”
This made the defense ask, why were the shell casings found across the street if the eye witness saw Thomas firing from the victims driveway.
During the trial, the State brought Wilson’s ex-girlfriend Lashana Simien in to testify to what Wilson had told her when he got home the night of the shooting.
Simien said, “He told me that he and Smoke (Reokenski) had probably shot someone but that he didn’t know if it was his bullet or Smoke’s.”
The defense pointed out to the jury that Simien’s statement came after the FBI showed up at her home with a warrant for obstruction of justice if she did not tell them what they considered to be the truth. FBI Agent Kruger had even informed Simien that her bond would be set at $90,000, which Simien knew she would not be able to post.
In closing arguments, Fontenot said to the jury, “The defense wants to act like they have “I got you moments”, because Detective Hall said he noticed sweat on a fence but officer (Xxxxxx) Griffin said he was the one that noticed it. Those aren’t I got you moments. Those are the smoke and mirrors I told you that the defense would use.”
When attorney Spears addressed the jury during his closing arguments, he reminded the jury of something he had told them during opening statements.
“I told you that at the end of this trial I would have a list of questions for you that were never answered during the trial,” said Spears.
One of those questions that Spears said had never been answered dealt with supposed phone records that the state claimed would prove Simien, who lived with Wilson, tried to call her ex-boyfriend several times at the time of the murder.
Spears also pointed out that if the defendants’ DNA had been collected from where the Ville Platte Police Department swabbed, then that would mean that the two defendants jumped the five foot fence in the exact same spot.
Both Spears and Richard, during their closing arguments, argued that evidence had not been handled properly by the VPPD.
In the instance of the DNA, Richard showed the jury that the label for the DNA that had been filled out by Detective Hall did not even have a name on it. Richard asked, “How do you even know that the DNA in the envelope belongs to my client or Mr. Thomas?”
In the minds of the jury though, the questions weren’t enough to acquit Thomas or Wilson.
After three and a half hours of deliberation Wednesday afternoon, the jury rendered their guilty verdicts.
Sentencing for Thomas and Wilson has been set for July 28, 2016.