Eyewitnesses recall night of Raphael White 's shooting during 2014 murder trial

Rodney Jennings listens during jury selection as his murder trial begins in the courtroom of Judge Tom Greenholtz on Tuesday, Apr. 5, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.
photo Rodney Jennings
photo Rodney Jennings Jr.
It was a day for diagrams in Judge Tom Greenholtz's Criminal Court.

Attorneys Brandy Spurgin and Brian Pearce asked witnesses to draw pictures and recall where they stood on Jan. 28, 2014, in an effort to discredit the state's argument during the second day of Rodney Jennings' murder trial in Hamilton County.

Prosecutors say Jennings, 29, arrived unannounced at 2755 6th Ave. around 6 p.m. to see his children and ended up fatally shooting Raphael White during a confrontation. His defense says Jennings was outnumbered by hostile people and acted in self-defense.

Wednesday's testimony turned tense as several eyewitnesses were asked to recall what happened that night.

"The night you were interviewed by police, you told them something different," Spurgin said to Ronald White, the victim's brother.

"No, I did not," Ronald White said.

Spurgin approached the stand holding a document and asked White to read a statement he gave to a Chattanooga police officer. Several times Wednesday, Spurgin and Pearce tried to highlight inconsistencies in the witnesses' testimony.

White read aloud: "[Raphael] opened the door and followed, like, him, behind him."

"So your answer to police is Raphael opened the door and followed behind Rodney Jennings," Spurgin said.

"No," White said. "He was still in the house, that's what I just told you."

Spurgin fired back. "You testified today that Mr. Raphael White didn't go into the public hallway."

"He didn't," White said. "He was shutting the door. Right before he shut the door, [Jennings] shot him."

"You told police on the night that he went into the hallway and followed Rodney Jennings," Spurgin insisted.

"No, I didn't," White said, "No, I didn't."

Later in the day, when Cheslea Thompson, the mother of Jennings' children, was on the stand, Pearce asked similar questions about the moments immediately after Raphael White was shot.

"If he got shot at the doorway, how did his legs end up outside the doorway?" Pearce asked.

"That's just the way he fell," Thompson said.

Prosecutors Cameron Williams and Kristen Spires called eyewitnesses, as well as several law enforcement agents who worked the case and tracked Jennings down in Memphis, where he was found two months after the shooting.

The trial continues today in Greenholtz's court at 9:30 a.m.

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347 with story ideas or tips. Follow @zackpeterson918.