HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — After an emotional first day of testimony, the trial of LaJeromeny Brown, who is accused of killing Huntsville Police Department (HPD) STAC Agent Billy Clardy III, continued Thursday at the Madison County Courthouse.
On Wednesday, News 19 Investigative Reporter Dallas Parker was in the courtroom to provide live updates throughout the day.
The day began with their opening statements. State prosecutor Tim Douthit said Clardy, a 14-year veteran of HPD and member of the Strategic Counterdrug Team (or STAC), was shot and killed by Brown during a drug sting. He described the events leading up to the fatal shooting at length. Including the initial buy, when agents met Brown, that led up to the second buy at the house on Levert Street, where Clardy was shot.
The defense, however, had a shorter opening statement, only lasting two minutes.
The state called seven witnesses to the stand on Wednesday. Over the course of the day, the jury and witnesses were shown body camera footage from the shooting and several crime scene images.
Thursday’s testimony began with the state calling Dr. Valerie Green. Green is with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) and is the State Medical Examiner. She performed Clardy’s autopsy.
The jurors are shown photos from the autopsy. Dr. Green explained that exit wounds were found through his upper right back. A bullet also went through Clardy’s right shoulder and several vital organs. Dr. Green says that is the bullet that most likely killed him. The cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the torso. The manner of death is homicide.
Next, DNA analyst Angela Fletcher was brought up to the stand. Fletcher is also employed at the ADFS. She performed the DNA analysis on the gun that was found at the scene. Fletcher said that she swabbed the grip, trigger and slide of the gun.
The swab of the slide was able to pick up a mixture of two people, at least one of those was male. Fletcher said she was able to match one of the DNA profiles to a man named Hector Alonzo through the CODIS system. However, she was unable to confirm whether Brown was the source of the smaller DNA profile.
The state then called Brandon Best to the stand. He is a forensic scientist, who specializes in firearm and tool marks examination, at the ADFS.
Best says he received two 9mm Glock pistols, as well as, magazines, bullets, fired bullets and cartridge cases. He showed the jury the pistol that investigators say was used in Clardy’s death. Best called it a switch with “an aftermarket sear.” It makes a normal semi-automatic pistol fully automatic.
“Switches are not consistent. Sometimes they move back and forth between semi-auto and fully-auto,” he added. “Firing this is the fastest-firing pistol I’ve ever shot.” He discussed testing bullets before he was excused from the stand.
Finally, the state called their final witness – Investigator Chris Hines. Hines is a major crimes investigator for HPD, and has been with the department for 25 years. He responded to the shooting with other investigators. Hines walked through what his role was that night.
“Typically on all scenes you want to survey the scene. [Investigators] Talked to some people hanging out. Went to the hospital. Spoke to special agents there. They were emotional at the time, but helpful.”
At the time of the investigation, Brown had been transported to HPD’s Criminal Investigations Division where he was interviewed by Hines. Footage of their interview was played for the jury. The investigator added that he did follow up with the lead on Hector Alonzo, however, Alonzo was in Texas on Dec. 6, 2019.
In the video, Brown is being assessed by medics while handcuffed. Hines comes into the room and Brown gives the investigator his information, like name, birthdate and the address of where he had been staying in Chattanooga.
Jurors watched as Hines read Brown his rights. The investigator asks Brown how the night began. He told the investigator that he ended up on Levert Street while he was “talking to a friend looking at some houses.”
Hines asked him what happened, and Brown told him that he wasn’t sure and didn’t even remember pulling up to the house. “What am I being charged with? You read me my rights but didn’t say anything about charges.”
“I’m just trying to understand what I’m looking at. Trying to get to the bottom of how you got here and what all went down,” Hines answered. Brown maintains that he was just looking at houses for sale.
The investigator asked Brown, “Obviously you made contact with someone in the house.” Brown replied, “I don’t know. I don’t remember. What am I being charged with?”
Hines told him he was there under investigation, and that he wanted Brown’s side of the story. However, Brown continues to ask about his charges. The investigator asks about when he pulled up to the house, and that “somewhere between the truck and the entrance of the house there’s gunshots.” Hines said that at that point someone had been hit, but not Brown.
“I was running from gunshots. I heard them. I didn’t shoot. I didn’t shoot anyone,” Brown is heard saying in the video. Hines asked Brown if he thought his fingerprints or DNA would be found on that gun. Brown told him no, and asked about his charges. The investigator emphasizes that he “is just trying to get the truth.”
“You keep asking me the same things. I said I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not trying to be an as*hole or get smart. I’m not trying to feed you no bullsh*t. Certain things I’m not going to speak on,” Brown said.
The investigator continues to question Brown bout his arrival at the house. Brown repeats that he won’t speak on it. “I’m going to respect me and you’ll respect me. We’ll continue to be cordial.”
Brown says, “Can I ask you a question? What am I being charged with?” Hines responded, “There’s a possibility depending on the circumstances that you could be charged with murder or capital murder… The guy shot died.”
“Are you serious? You’ve got to be kidding me. Lord… That’s bad. God,” Brown says. Hines continued, “He was a police officer.”
“He was a police officer? Serious? What the f*ck was he doing? Lord. A cop.” Brown looked down, shaking his head. He asked for the officer’s name, however, Hines did not give Clardy’s name. The investigator mentioned that everyone in the room was a police officer. Brown kept his head down.
Hines asked him if he wanted to talk about what happened, and Brown said no. “I’m going to step out and come back. You want to talk let me know.”
The prosecution scrubbed through the video until Hines returned. He asked Brown a few more questions about what he had on him at the time. Brown retained that he didn’t remember.
“You’re being charged with capital murder tonight,” Hines told him. “I’m being charged with capital murder? I didn’t kill nobody,” Brown said back. “That’s what you’re saying, but not showing otherwise,” Hines said.
Brown told Hines, “I didn’t kill no police officer. How did they come up with capital murder? You told me initially it was between murder and capital murder?” Hines reminded Brown that it was a police officer, “It depends on how the whole thing played out and your version of the story.”
The video ends with Brown continuing to ask questions about his charge. Hines said he had just left the hospital before his interview with Brown. The investigator was excused and the state rested their case.
Following the video, the defense moved to a motion for acquittal. They said that the state has not met the burden as to particularized intent to kill. The state argued that pointing a gun and firing three times is enough to show intent. The motion was denied.
Then, Brown took the stand to testify in his own capital murder trial. He introduced himself and pointed out his family in the courtroom. Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner asked Brown how he knew the confidential informant. He said they met through a “cannabis acquaintance” in Alabama.
He was asked about his previous felony, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, which he served time in prison for prior to the shooting. Brown admitted to coming to Huntsville for the transaction at Parkway Place Mall. Brown said the informant told him that his acquaintance Mo (undercover) wanted to buy three pounds of marijuana, and he sold it to him at the mall.
When they were setting up the second buy, Brown said that he had to order the drugs and that the informant was ‘rushing’ him. Brown admitted to bringing the 100 pounds of marijuana to Huntsville on the day of the shooting. Brown said he did not insist on meeting at a house, and that he just needed an address. He admitted the informant was who gave him the address to the Levert Street home about 20 minutes before he arrived.
Brown said when he got to the house, he waited about 7-8 minutes before calling the informant and he said he was eating inside the house and would send ‘Mo’ out.
“Mo came out and waved me in the house. At that point, I backed into the yard because I had luggage. Mo went back inside,” Brown said. After turning the car off, he grabbed the luggage and walked up to the front door, Brown continued.
Gardner asked Brown, “You had 100 pounds of product. Were you armed?” Brown said yes and that the gun was holstered on his right side.
Brown said he dropped the luggage on the porch so he could knock on the door. When he stepped in, “The house was dark and there was trash everywhere. I said, ‘What the h*ll is this?’ I was alarmed. My eyes were trying to adjust,” Brown said.
Brown said he was nervous and when he heard shuffling, he turned, saw a figure who he thought was armed, ‘moving very fast and aggressive.’ Brown said that was when he fired. He said he had no idea he was a police officer,
“No one ever said anything. There were no marked cars or anything. After I fired, I got out of there.” He thought was about to be killed and robbed for the drugs. Brown said he saw officers chasing him and he eventually dropped the gun after he heard a gunshot and a car coming towards him.
“What you did that day has caused a lot of people tremendous grief, anguish to all kinds of people. And all these officers who are here,” Gardner said.
“To the Clardy family, I am deeply sorry. I can’t image what you have went through. As well as the family friends…” Brown says emotionally. “If I could take it back, I would. Initially, I told Mr. Hines to tell the family and he said that he would. I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t forgotten.”
Brown also apologized to his own family, law enforcement, the courts and community for putting everyone through this.
After a break, Brown was also cross-examined by prosecutor Douthit. During the cross-examination, Brown reiterated his earlier testimony about the house and shooting.
“I saw a silhouette with a weapon,” Brown said. “At least what looks like a gun. I fired when the figure crossed the threshold. I didn’t know he was police. I never saw what he was wearing.”
Brown also said again that he did not know police were present and if he had he would have acted differently.
“You had a couple different options: you could’ve submitted, you could’ve shot which is what you did, or retreated,” Douthit said during his examination.
Brown replied that he had been backing out of the house when he fired his weapon.
Following the cross-examination and short break while the judge held a charge conference in his chambers, the prosecution and defense both presented their closing statements.
Douthit began with the prosecution’s statement highlighting the facts laid out in the case.
“The truth fits all the facts,” he said. “It’s the story I told you yesterday. He walked in ready to shoot. The gun was in his hand. Clardy takes a step and half out. The bags of marijuana were stacked at the door. He thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room.”
Douthit played body cam footage from the scene several times each time asking the jury to look at how quickly Clardy is shot and asking jurors to look at Clardy’s hands.
The prosecutor also commented on Brown’s testimony saying that he did not know Clardy and other STAC agents were police.
“He knew they were police,” he said. “Intent can be formed in an instant. There’s not a question as to his guilt. They tried. He’s got good lawyers some of the best in the county. But there’s no defense here”
The prosecutor said Brown could have created a story to fit the evidence.
“He’s had four years to concoct an almost perfect story to match the evidence,” he said. “That was not an apology earlier, that’s something a publicist writes for a client in a sex scandal.”
Gardner in his closing said that Brown was not told what to say in testimony in.
“Let me correct one thing: At no time did anyone on my team suggest to Mr. Brown what to say to you. It’s not in my nature,” he said. “Brown told you today what he told me when I took him on as a client.”
Gardner told the jury that the judge would instruct them on charges of capital murder but also to consider lesser charges of felony murder and manslaughter.
He said his client has to rely on what he perceives and that Brown did not know police were present at the time.
“The law says my client is entitled to rely on what he perceives as long as his belief was reasonable,” Gardner said. “He said he saw a silhouette, shadowy figure coming out of a room. This is during a $65k deal. He’s on edge. Everyone is.”
He said no one there identified themselves as police. Gardner said he believes Brown is remorseful.
“I don’t for a moment believe LaJeromeny Brown was faking during his apology,” Gardner said. “He’s remorseful. I didn’t tell him what to say. He said it.”
He also said he knows Brown is guilty of something, but not capital murder.
“I am not here asking you to let him walk out of here with you,” Garnder told the jury. ” I’m not. I’m asking you to consider that under these circumstances you may not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that my client is guilty of capital murder. He’s guilty of something. He is.”
The defense asked that the jury carefully look at the instructions and make a well-thought-out decision.
I ask that you find my client not guilty of the capital offense,” he said in closing. “Thank you.”
In his rebuttal, Prosecutor Tim Gann said he did not believe Gardner helped Brown make up any testimony.
“Brown is smart enough to do it on his own,” he said. “Brown is an apex predator. Top of the food chain. This is what he does for a living. Who he is. He’s the reason STAC exists.”
Gann said that it ultimately does not matter if Brown knew Clardy was a police officer or not.
“He does not get the benefit of resisting arrest,” the prosecutor said. “Billy took two steps. We’re talking about particularized intent. Intent can be formed in an instant. But it can’t be an accident. He testified that he meant to point the gun, and pull the trigger.”
He told the jury that if they believed Brown saw a shadowy figure and shot him then Brown is guilty.
“The law is clear,” Gann said. “The facts are clear. Bruce talked to you some about letting him off with lesser charges. For you to do that you have to determine somehow he did not mean to shoot Clardy and that would mean evidence doesn’t show it.”
Below you can find updates from News 19 Investigative Reporter Dallas Parker.