Davis faces possible 25-year sentence

Davis faces possible 25-year sentence

March 12th, 2011 by Todd South in News

With tears running down his face, Montez Davis, 20, is consoled by his attorney, Curtis L. Bowe III, as he listens to his guilty verdict Friday in Judge Barry Steelman's courtroom. Davis was convicted of second-degree murder, and two other charges. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

Tears streamed down Montez Davis' face Friday as a jury pronounced him guilty of second-degree murder.

Curtis Bowe, Davis' attorney, held his right hand on his client's back through the reading of the verdict in Hamilton County Criminal Court, attempting to console the 20-year-old.

Family members of the man Davis shot to death, 42-year-old Jonathan Lawrence, sat quietly as the verdict was read and declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

It took the jury about three hours to return guilty verdicts on all three charges - second-degree murder, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Judge Barry Steelman scheduled a sentencing hearing for May 16, Davis faces between 15 and 25 years in prison for the murder charge alone.

Deputies took Davis, who was free on bond during the trial, into custody shortly after the verdict.

Davis' family, who were there for the entire four-day trial, declined to comment. The mother of Davis' 1-year-old child wept as the jury foreman read the verdict. Outside the courtroom she fell to her knees, wailing.

She would not give her name.

According to testimony, someone threw a bottle through the back window of his vehicle in the parking lot of he Kanku's gas station at 3440 Wilcox Blvd. about 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2010.

Davis responded by firing a .40-caliber Glock handgun five times into a crowd in the parking lot.

One bullet struck the Jeep Grand Cherokee in which his sister was sitting and another struck a red car parked at the closest pump.

A third slug punctured the Lawrence's neck, severing all three carotid arteries and killing him almost instantly.

Lawrence, a father of two and a grandfather, had spent the cold night shuffling between the Kanku's and the Midnite Oil gas station on the opposite side of Wilcox Boulevard, pumping gas for tips.

Minutes after the shooting, police said, a retaliatory firefight erupted at the house of Davis' father on the 1000 block of Tunnel Boulevard a half-mile away.

Police recovered shell casings from an AK-47 type assault rifle in the road outside the home and more .40-caliber shell casings in the gravel driveway. Bullet holes and slugs pockmarked the front porch, window and door. Some bullets pierced walls into a living room and a bedroom.

The investigation into the firefight is still open.

On Feb. 27, 2010, a second fatal shooting at the Kanku's station brought immediate public outcry. Police arrested Jamaal Byrd on first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Terrance Etchison.

Byrd has a hearing set in April.

On Friday morning in their closing arguments, attorneys summed up their cases.

Assistant District Attorney Cameron Williams said Davis had carried the .40-caliber Glock pistol for three days before the shooting. He reminded them that Davis told police that he had the gun that night because he planned to go to a party where he thought some Bloods gang members might attend.

On the first day of the trial, Bowe said Davis had dropped out of Brainerd High School as a junior as a result of harassment from Bloods members.

On Friday, Williams also pointed Davis' options after the Budweiser beer bottle flew through the back window of his sport utility vehicle.

"A reasonable person would continue to drive," Williams said. "He could have just left. And he chose not to do that."

Bowe argued that the state had never offered a single witness or evidence that proved his client intended to kill anyone that night.

Reminding the jury that the prosecution must prove that his client was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, Bowe picked apart police interrogation methods, evidence and handling of the crime scene.

"Was there another gun?" he asked rhetorically. "We don't know."

Witnesses said occupants of a dark SUV yelled at Davis as he drove through the lot before the beer bottle was thrown. Video from a store camera shows what police said was a rifle sticking out of the window of the same SUV as it left the parking lot immediately after the shooting.

Bowe argued that prosecutors were looking at such a small window of time, they excluded ongoing threats and harassment against his client by some Bloods gang members.

After the verdict, Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston said the verdict matched what prosecutors had argued.

"Our contention throughout the course of the trial was that this was an intentional and unlawful killing and that's what the jury found," he said.