Today was the start of the murder trial of Devonni Manuel Benton, who is accused of fatally shooting Spelman College sophomore Jasmine Lynn in the early hours of Sept. 3 as she walked past a fight on the Clark Atlanta campus.
Benton wore a black pin-striped suit as he listened to Fulton County assistant district attorney Eleanor Ross preview evidence against him.
“He took that gun out of that American Eagle bag and fired it … not one, not two, not three, four or five times, but at least six times,” Ross told the jury.
She promised to present witnesses who would consistently describe a man with a mohawk haircut with reddish or blondish tips shooting, then dropping a tan bag as he fled.
Benton’s attorney, Jackie Patterson, told the jury that a witness named Clarence Carter was the actual shooter.
“Not only did he do the shooting, he confessed to several friends that he did the shooting,” Patterson said. “There’s no better way of knowing who did the shooting than the shooter admitting that he did it. He confessed to at least two people.”
The prosecution has called four witnesses so far. One was Atlanta Police Officer Jonathan Hanley, who was the first on the scene. Another was Jarvis Jones, who also was shot in the incident. Neither Jones, Lynn’s friend Tiffani Nixon, nor Keith Reid, a person who was involved in the initial altercation, were able to tell jurors that they saw a gunman.
Jones told the jury all he recalled seeing were the colors red and black from the direction of the gunfire. Witnesses told police that the shooter was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and dark colored jeans. Jones said when the gun was fired, he dove toward the ground, then went inside a dorm and pulled the bullet out of his right forearm. Jones had been standing in front of Ware Hall, which is across the street from where the shooting took place.
Reid told the jury he recalled seeing seeing a tall, slender, dark-skinned man flash a gun before the shooting started, but could not remember what the book bag that had contained the gun looked like. He also admitted to the jury that he had lied to the police during the initial part of the investigation. He had told police that he was in a dorm with Lynn, but he had been in a car with people who were involved in the altercation. He contends he was not involved in the fight.
Jasmine Lynn’s mother, Constance Franklin, wrapped herself in white shawl and rocked back and forth while listening to the testimony.
For updates, visit the AJC.com.