The outcome: Troy Jamal Cokley and Ricket Damon Carter were exonerated of murder and robbery charges related to the killing of Joseph P. McDaniel.
“This case is just a tragedy all the way around,” said Attorney Chris Twyman, who represented Cokley along with co-attorney West Evans. “I’m sure Mr. Cokley and Mr. Carter are looking forward to moving past this. Hopefully everybody can move forward and past this tragic event.”
Stacy Jackson, of Columbus, represented Carter.
After a five day trial and over a hundred exhibits the jury returned the verdict in just over an hour and 15 minutes.
District Attorney Leigh Patterson declined to comment on the specifics of the case but said “you have to respect the jury’s verdict.”
The incident took place Oct. 28, 2017, in the Summerstone Apartments unit where McDaniel lived. While the fight and the shooting were not in dispute, the men’s attorneys characterized it as an act of self-defense.
The three men knew each other from high school in Columbus and, at the time of the incident, McDaniel was a student at Berry College. Police said there was a large amount of marijuana involved and the two men had planned to rob McDaniel.
“I really think it came down to witness credibility,” Twyman said. “The state’s witness is facing a tampering with evidence charge. I really felt the jury looked at that issue.”
During the trial Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson made clear before her questioning that one of the prosecution’s main witnesses and McDaniels’ roommate, Andrew David Horton, had been allowed a limited immunity and promised that his truthful testimony would not be used against him in future proceedings.
Horton and a female friend who lived in the complex — also Berry students — were present when Cokley and Carter arrived that night. Horton was also present during the time of the shooting. He is facing charges connected with removing marijuana and other evidence after McDaniel had been shot and hiding it in the woman’s apartment — making several trips before calling 911 to report the shooting.
Cokley and Carter fled to Columbus after the shooting and were arrested at the home of one of Carter’s relatives. Neither the pistol involved in the shooting nor the marijuana reportedly involved in the drug deal were ever recovered.
“There were a lot of unanswered questions about what happened in that apartment,” Twyman said.
Twyman also said he felt a phone call from Cokley to his mother, played for the jury, in which he described the shooting as self-defense was a powerful piece of evidence.