Jurors on Friday convicted a Chattanooga mechanic of a 2015 murder attempt even though the victim refused to come to court to testify.
Osei Sorrell will be sentenced Oct. 2 on his convictions for attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Because he had no prior criminal history here, Sorrell faces eight to 12 years in state prison on the attempted murder charge, said his attorney, Joshua Weiss.
Prosecutors said Sorrell shot Kadarius Johnson in the back of the head from behind the wheel of a white SUV on Sept. 23, 2015. Sorrell not only endangered Johnson's life, but the public, too, since his pursuit started in Avondale and wound through downtown Chattanooga, prosecutors said.
For proof, assistant district attorney Andrew Coyle pointed to numerous 911 calls that identified a white SUV; a traffic stop in which Sorrell lied about having a gun in the car, and a forensic specialist who said a .22-caliber shell casing found along the chase route matched the .22-caliber weapon officers found near Sorrell's gas pedal.
Weiss said the state conducted an insufficient investigation and didn't have one eyewitness who could point to Sorrell as the shooter.
At a hearing in 2015, Johnson testified he'd never seen Sorrell in his life, Weiss said. And this week, Johnson disobeyed a court order to come and testify, prompting prosecutors to seek a warrant for his arrest.
Furthermore, Weiss said, 911 callers gave inconsistent details about the white SUV, leading officers to an open-and-shut investigation once they found Sorrell's vehicle at the intersection of High and Fourth streets.
The lead investigator didn't collect video of the chase or do a standard photo lineup to confirm Sorrell's identity, Weiss said.
"This is a shooting, a chase, all the way down Third Street," Weiss argued. "That is the busiest area in all of Chattanooga. There are cameras everywhere. Why wouldn't [the investigating officer] go and pull the video the next day?"
As for Johnson, said Weiss: "[Sorrell and Johnson] don't know each other, and this is big. If you can't see why this happened, if Kadarius Johnson isn't willing to show up and tell why this happened, why should you even care?"
Coyle, during his final argument to jurors, said the defense had been trying to mislead them all week. The prosecutor agreed a mere description of a white SUV wasn't enough to arrest anybody for attempted murder.
But how many drivers in a white SUV lied about having a .22-caliber gun in the car that matched a .22-caliber bullet found at the scene of a car chase? And how many drivers in a white SUV had gunshot residue on the car door? Sorrell told officers he had been at a woman's house at the time of the shooting, but officers never located her on Facebook or were provided a phone number or address, Coyle said.
"Why should you care?" Coyle asked. "This is not acceptable. At all of those points, [Sorrell] was trying to kill an individual, and he was doing so in one of the busiest areas of Chattanooga."
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.