Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Murder trial begins in Franklin County
The judge reduced the charge against Stanley Dion Tate to second-degree murder.
That's what a weeping Stanley Dion Tate told the jury Tuesday during the first day of his trial on murder and firearms charges in Franklin County Circuit Court. The charges stem from the May 24 shooting death of Charmane Tamika "Mika" Davis, 28, his former girlfriend, with whom he fathered two children. No one disputes that Tate shot and killed Davis. But testimony that Davis arrived unannounced and broke into the home where Tate was staying added a surprise twist to the proceedings.
Andrea Long of Richmond, Tate's defense attorney, summed up the decision facing the jury. "The question is whether or not Mr. Tate knew he was shooting Tamika when he fired at Tamika."
Tate originally was charged with first-degree murder and using a gun in a murder. After prosecutors presented their evidence, Judge William Alexander reduced the murder charge to second degree, saying prosecutors had not shown the killing was premeditated. The judge dismissed an additional charge of shooting inside an occupied dwelling, saying there was no evidence the other two people in Tate's house in Penhook at the time of the shooting were in danger.
One of those people, Tate's girlfriend, Lachrisa Robertson, testified Tuesday that Davis broke into Tate's house that night. Evidence presented by prosecutors appeared to support that claim.
According to testimony, Davis, of Danville, borrowed a friend's car, drove it to Tate's house and parked across the street about midnight. The windshield of Tate's car was smashed, and a front window of his house was broken out. Investigators found Davis' body lying near Tate's bedroom, with a long, heavy ratchet wrench lying by her left hand.
Tate, 32, took the stand in his own defense, often weeping openly. He said that he heard noises outside that sounded like gunshots, then grabbed his Glock pistol just before an intruder barged into his bedroom. Tate said that he shot without thinking, only realizing it was Davis after she fell.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Nix argued that Tate had enough time and light to recognize Davis. He asked Tate why after the shooting he drove to meet a friend who hid his car and gun, rather than calling police. "I was scared. I wasn't thinking," Tate said.
Outside the courtroom, Davis' relatives described her as loud and outspoken. They don't believe she would have gone into Tate's house without saying anything.
"That's not Mika," said Janidean Stones, an aunt.