• December 28, 2014

Murder trial halted when witness invokes Fifth Amendment

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Posted: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 4:30 am

BELTON — Proceedings in the murder trial of Temple resident Cedric J. “Snoody” Lilly ground to a halt Tuesday afternoon when a witness refused to testify.

Anthony Johnson, 35, was called by the Bell County district attorney’s office as a potential witness to the November shooting death of Michael Green, 34, allegedly by Lilly, 19.

When Johnson, dressed in prison orange, took the stand, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. Judge Fancy Jezek of the 426th District Court was swearing him in when he pleaded “the Fifth.”

Jezek dismissed the jury and told Johnson that because he had no criminal cases pending, he couldn’t invoke the Fifth Amendment.

“I’m making the best decision for my family,” Johnson said. “It is what it is. I plead the Fifth.”

As deputies from the Bell County Sheriff’s Department escorted Johnson from the courtroom, prosecuting attorney Paul McWilliams said it was necessary to get him an attorney because he was “possibly facing contempt of court charges.”

Mike White, Lilly’s defense attorney, said he doesn’t believe contempt charges could apply.

“It’s his right. He was being called as an eyewitness,” White said. “Who knows what he was going to say.”

Court remained in recess for over an hour so Jon McDurmitt could be appointed to represent Johnson and negotiate a deal to ensure Johnson, who is serving a sentence for burglary of a habitation, wouldn’t be prosecuted for anything he might admit to during his testimony. After the deal was approved by the prosecution and judge, Johnson retook the stand.

He testified he arrived at 406 S. 32nd St. in Temple, a house his cousin LaPorticia Williams shared with her boyfriend, Andrew Dobbins, about 9 on the night of the shooting. His cousin and her boyfriend were gone, but he found Lilly and Green in the living room.

According to earlier testimony by Billy Birch, a Temple police officer, Green came to Temple from Houston and had been staying with Williams and Dobbins for less than a month.

Birch said Green had been dealing “wet sticks” or “dip sticks,” tobacco or marijuana cigarettes immersed in a mixture of phencyclidine, better known as PCP, and vanilla extract, in the area.

Johnson testified as he entered the house, he saw Lilly hand Green $10 for a cigarette and shortly after the exchange, Lilly and Green began arguing.

Johnson said Lilly showed Green a pistol, which Green said he would hold as collateral for money Lilly owed him.

“Snoody was like, ‘Why would I give you a gun to kill me with?’” Johnson said. He testified Lilly asked him to step outside.

“I said, ‘You’re tripping. You need to go outside,’” Johnson said. “I was trying to calm things down.”

He said a few minutes later, when he learned his cousin and her boyfriend were out playing bingo, he got up to leave, and Green walked him to the door. When Green opened the door, Lilly was standing there, gun drawn.

“Mike then shut the door,” Johnson said. “I wish he’d let it stay that way.”

Johnson said Green opened the door a second time, and Lilly shot him, and he left the scene.

“I heard more gunshots, but I was already in my car,” Johnson said. “I went to my sister’s house.”

Earlier testimony from William McClain, a forensic pathologist from the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, showed that Green was shot three times — once in the left side of the chest, once in the lower left portion of the stomach and once in the groin area.

The trial continues today.

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