Attorneys on Thursday picked a trial date for a Chattanooga man accused of pulling the trigger in a fatal August 2015 drive-by shooting.
Christopher Walton, 22, is scheduled to stand before a jury Feb. 27 in Hamilton County Criminal Court for the slaying of Jordan Clark. Walton is imprisoned in county jail and faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony.
But there are a few outstanding issues to address before then.
Prosecutors said Clark and a second friend, Tavoris McKeldin, noticed a white PT Cruiser as they walked along Willow Street on Aug. 25, 2015. McKeldin thought the Cruiser belonged to his grandmother, who lived nearby, according to his testimony. Instead, someone stuck their arm out of the window and opened fire, fatally striking Clark in the thigh and upper and lower back. McKeldin survived by scaling a nearby fence.
Using eyewitness statements and 911 calls from the area, law enforcement tracked the tag number to a PT Cruiser in Teshayla Yearby's name. She was a friend of Walton's, whose home was shot up earlier that day with Walton inside. That night, officers spotted the Cruiser at her uncle's place on Grove Street and found Walton at his sister's house with bleach on his hands.
Two other factors contributed to his arrest: Yearby's uncle said he saw Walton in the PT Cruiser the same night of the shooting, and authorities said Clark and Walton associated with two street gangs embroiled in an ongoing feud.
Criminal Court Judge Don Poole hasn't ruled yet on whether prosecutors can mention gang affiliation at Walton's trial. Prosecutors often introduce that evidence to give jurors a window of understanding into the alleged crime. But mentioning gangs isn't relevant to this case and would only hurt Walton's chances of receiving a fair trial, his then-defense attorney, Jay Perry, wrote in a motion in March.
Walton's new attorney, Dan Ripper, could take up the issue during the next court date on Jan. 10. Walton also filed a motion on his own, asking for a reduction in his $1 million-plus bond that hasn't been addressed yet.
Walton never admitted to the shooting during any police questioning, his first attorney, Jonathan Turner, argued in a 2015 hearing. No eyewitnesses saw Walton in the car on scene or saw him pull the trigger, Turner said. Authorities found his fingerprints on the car, but that's because Walton was in it the day before, Turner said.
During that hearing, Turner pointed to Yearby's uncle as a possible suspect, saying he was upset by someone shooting up his niece's home. Court records show Yearby's uncle has never been charged in the crime.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.