Defense questions state's testimony during 2nd day of 2013 house shooting trial

Santory Johnson gestures as he is led into the courtroom of Judge Tom Greenholtz as jury selection begins in his first-degree murder trial in the Hamilton County Criminal Court on Monday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Johnson faces charges in the shooting death of Christopher Jones, Jr., on Oct. 4, 2013.

The game was Georgia Skin.

Charlotte Pinkerton was seated beside Santory Johnson, Christopher Jones and a few other friends, gambling in a side yard near the 4000 block of Chandler Avenue on Oct. 4, 2013. About 15 to 30 people had gathered there for a birthday party. They drank around two picnic tables, playing cards in the darkness.

When he ran out of money, Jones, 24, decided to go home.

But as he got into a car with his grandma, his girlfriend, and two of his cousins, Johnson shouted, "where you going, fool?" and fired one shot into the night.

Jones was upset by the gunshot, Pinkerton testified Wednesday in Hamilton County Criminal Court. He turned around, asked Johnson why he would fire with his grandmother in the car, and then went home. He returned later that night, unarmed and alone, seeking a more detailed explanation from Johnson.

Authorities found Jones shortly thereafter, dead on the street from gunshot wounds.

Pinkerton's testimony came during the second day of Johnson's first-degree murder trial. Prosecutors say Johnson, 37, fatally shot Jones during that party in 2013. His defense attorneys, Amanda Dunn and Eliza Epps, say Johnson is not guilty.

Most of Wednesday's testimony revolved around the party, with the defense characterizing the evening as a fun, hazy event that might cause inconsistent memories. While cross-examining Pinkerton, Dunn pointed out to her that her statements in the courtroom were in danger of differing from her initial statements to police about two years ago.

Party attendee Rodney Southers, a federal inmate being held in Bradley County, said Jones "ran up on Santory" when he returned to the party, asking him again why he fired a gun.

Dunn asked if Jones was armed. He never threatened Johnson, and didn't appear to be armed, Southers said.

Still, Johnson asked him to leave.

Then he followed Jones back to his car and shot him on the driver's side, Southers said.

"He went around to the passenger side, and stuck his arm through the window and shot Chris again," Southers said.

Chattanooga police recovered five shells from the scene, but never a gun. On Wednesday, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Kevin Warner said the .45-caliber bullets were all fired from the same weapon.

Southers, who agreed to offer information in the hopes of lowering his sentence, said he never called 911, never gave a statement to police, and instead left for his grandmother's place two houses down. While cross-examining him, Dunn asked why he agreed to only give information to authorities only in January.

"You just decided out of the goodness of your heart to tell on every friend for no reason?" Dunn asked.

"The fact of the matter is, you didn't proffer until January 2015," she continued. "Your conscience wasn't calling on you until you were put in the situation of facing 15 years in prison."

When the state finished presenting its evidence, Dunn asked Judge Tom Greenholtz to consider dismissing Johnson's first-degree charge, arguing the state never presented sufficient evidence of premeditation. After listening to state prosecutors, Greenholtz denied the motion.

"Premeditation can be formed in an instant," he said.

Jurors will reconvene Thursday at 10 a.m. for final arguments.

Contact Zack Peterson at On Twitter, follow @zackpeterson918.