BELTON — The jury in a Killeen murder trial received lessons in forensics during the second day of testimony in the case of a man accused of fatally shooting a man at a Killeen nightclub in 2018.
The state rested its case after the medical examiner testified in the afternoon on Wednesday in the 264th Judicial District Court. The defense attorney announced to the court that he intends to recall several civilian witnesses who testified on Tuesday.
Reginald Ferlandus Jackson, who is out on bond, is accused of killing 41-year-old Deandre Patrick Thomas, of Killeen, at the OBok Restaurant & Club in the 2800 block of South Fort Hood Street on Aug. 18, 2018.
The shooting allegedly started with an argument between the two men in the early morning hours. Thomas, who was a veteran, is the father of three children. He worked for Scott & White in the information technology department.
Family and friends of both Thomas and Jackson have been in court during the trial.
The jury heard several hours of dry, scientific testimony before hearing emotional testimony from Marla Campbell, Thomas’s wife and mother of their 8-year-old child.
She said that Thomas had left to help a friend who was DJ’ing at the club.
“Around 2 a.m. I started to receive phone calls,” she said. “I went to our son’s room to wake him up and let him know he would be staying with his grandmother for a little while.”
Campbell re-lived the moment she arrived at the Carl C. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, where Thomas had been taken to after he was shot.
“I took off running through the doors. The nurses stood up and I knew something wasn’t right,” she said.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Waldman asked Campbell if she had ever seen him with a gun, and she said that she had not.
During his opening statement on Tuesday, Waldman told the jury of seven men and four women that Jackson had gunshot residue on his hands, that the bullet casings found at the scene matched Jackson’s pistol, and that Jackson’s DNA was on the weapon. On Wednesday, Jackson’s defense attorney, Jim Kreimeyer, tried to raise doubt in jurors’ minds during his cross-examinations.
A Killeen Police Department detective, Matilde Uvalle, testified on Wednesday morning about the process used to obtain a DNA sample from Jackson’s mouth, after which the sample was sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety forensics laboratory in Waco. She was one of the detectives who responded to the club after the shooting, interviewed witnesses and informed Thomas’s wife of his death.
Erin Casmus, a DNA analyst with the DPS forensics lab in Waco, testified that it was likely that DNA located on the Springfield .45-caliber pistol used in the shooting matched the DNA profile obtained by the KPD detective. She said the DNA testing was done first, before the pistol was sent for fingerprint and ballistics analysis, “to avoid harm to the DNA.”
Casmus reported that there was DNA from two people on the weapon, and that there was a high chance “that Jackson was one of the contributors.”
“We provide a statistical calculation as to the likelihood but there is never a point at which we can say for sure,” she said.
Kreimeyer, in his cross-examination, emphasized the contribution of the other, unknown person.
The next forensics witness was Thomas White, a gunshot residue chemist with the DPS forensics lab in Austin.
White explained that gunshot residue is “primer residue.”
“When the primer (on a bullet) is sparked by a firing pin inside the pistol, (the primer) vaporizes and escapes from the weapon,” he said. “As soon as it cools it can settle on hands and clothing, like chalk dust.”
He said that testing showed that samples taken from Jackson’s hands about two hours after the shooting confirmed “gunshot residue particles.”
Kreimeyer seized on the chance that such particles could result from transfer from another person or object.
“We can say that he fired a weapon, was near a weapon when it was fired, or had handled a surface with gunshot residue on it. It is possible for the residue to be transferred,” White said.
In court on Tuesday, the jury saw segments of surveillance video from the club that depicted the sequence of events and the moment when Thomas was shot.
After the defense questions its witnesses, closing arguments in the case could begin Thursday and then the jury will retire to deliberate.