Defense questions state evidence in 2015 car chase shooting trial

Defense questions state evidence in 2015 car chase shooting trial

August 18th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

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Osei Hakeem Oba Sorrell

Osei Hakeem Oba Sorrell

The state's evidence against a Chattanooga man accused of shooting someone in the head during a 2015 car chase is lacking on a number of fronts, a defense attorney argued Thursday at trial.

Among Joshua Weiss' points: No eyewitnesses said Osei Sorrell fired a weapon on Sept. 23, 2015, no police officers collected video or pictures of the chase and no 911 callers explicitly identified Sorrell or gave a consistent description of his white SUV.

And then, after officers arrested Sorrell, they stopped investigating the crime, Weiss argued in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

"No one identified the driver?" Weiss asked Chattanooga officer Jared Hamilton.

"No sir," Hamilton replied, "other than saying it was a heavyset black male with dreads."

"There are a lot of white SUVs in Chattanooga," Weiss said.

"Yes, sir, there are."

"You could say there's a lot of white Yukons," Weiss said.

"You could say that."

"But because you stopped investigating, you don't know how many other white SUVs have rims [in Chattanooga]," Weiss said.

Prosecutors countered that 911 logs show a white SUV chased a black sedan through downtown Chattanooga, with gunfire coming from the pursuer. That same night, Kadarius Johnson, now 20, showed up at the hospital with a .22-caliber bullet fragment in his head. He survived the shooting and gave officers a vague description of his shooter and his shooter's vehicle, prosecutors said. Officers found Sorrell, 33, using that and a number of broad descriptions from 911 callers who saw a white SUV with large rims. After telling police that he didn't have a firearm in the car, an officer said he asked to search Sorrell's car and located a .22-caliber semi-automatic firearm near the gas pedal.

Sorrell told officers he went to a lady friend's house before driving through the intersection of 14th Avenue and High Street — where police noticed his car. But Sorrell never provided a home address or phone number for the woman, Natasha Sleigh, Hamilton said.

Hamilton said he tried to find her on Sorrell's Facebook page, but his access was blocked. He went through various name combinations, but never found her, he said Thursday on the witness stand.

Weiss has argued his client had a concealed carry permit but forgot his firearm was in the car. He wanted to challenge Johnson's testimony — as he has done with many of the state's witnesses — but couldn't because the alleged victim has refused to come to court and testify. Johnson now has a warrant out for his arrest and was declared "unavailable" Thursday.

The trial, which started Tuesday, continues today at 9:30 a.m. before Judge Don Poole.

Sorrell faces charges of attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.

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