Jury selection begins Wednesday in the trial of Rayquan Borum. He’s charged with first-degree murder in the death of Justin Carr, who died during protests in the wake of the police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott. Pre-trial motions continued Tuesday, and the judge made a significant ruling: Video of Borum saying he shot a gun can be admitted into evidence.
WFAE's Sarah Delia has been in the courtroom following the trial. She spoke with "All Things Considered" host Mark Rumsey.
Mark Rumsey: Sarah, I know defense attorneys objected to this video saying the two detectives interviewing Borum violated his rights when they spoke with him. What did the judge have to say about that?
Sarah Delia: After hearing extensively from both the defense and the prosecution, Judge Gregory Hayes ruled that the video could be shown as evidence for a few reasons. One, he said this was a good opportunity for the jury to hear the answers Borum gave to CMPD the day he was interviewed. Detectives referenced video camera evidence during the interview as to what led them to arrest Borum.
Throughout the interview, Borum said again and again, “I want to see the evidence.” That stood out to Judge Hayes. He said Borum wasn’t under distress and that he seemed curious as to what evidence there was against him. Hayes said the police treated him respectfully — getting him food, letting him use the bathroom and even going out for a cigarette break.
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Rumsey: What does the video show and why was the defense so against it being shown?
Delia: The big thing is that Borum admits to having a gun and shooting it the night Carr was killed outside the Omni Hotel in uptown. He said he didn’t point the gun at anyone, he was just shooting it off to disperse the crowd.
The defense said the video shouldn’t have been shown because they took issue with how Borum was interviewed by police. At one point, he asked for an attorney and the detectives stopped asking questions but they continued speaking to him, saying things like “this is your chance to tell your story.”
Judge Hayes said that language was troublesome, but that it wasn’t a Miranda Rights violation.
Rumsey: Did investigators press Borum as to what motivated him to shoot the gun?
Delia: Well, during the course of the interrogation video, they sort of posed these two scenarios to Borum. One of the detectives said “you are either a cold-blooded killer or you were trying to clear people out and you… accidentally shot someone who was trying to leave.”
They asked him this numerous times: If this was a premeditated act of violence that he committed or did he get swept up in the moment and overwhelmed by the crowd? And ultimately, Borum said the latter happened — he got swept up into the crowd and it was an accident.
Rumsey: One of the prosecution’s witnesses is Vivian Carr, the mother of Justin Carr. But I understand the jury might not hear her testimony?
Delia: The defense did file a motion to exclude the testimony of Vivian Carr, stating she wasn’t there the night her son was killed. They worried that her testimony would be emotional and sway the jury.
So, Judge Hayes sort of struck a balance. If prosecutors want to use testimony from Vivian Carr, the court will do voir dire hiring. Basically, the jury is asked to leave and she’ll give her testimony. The judge will then rule whether or not her testimony directly relates to the events of that night. If the judge says it does, the jury will be brought back in and the state can have her testify in front of them. If not, her testimony is not heard by the jury.
Rumsey: Any other witnesses that have been mentioned?
Delia: Mark Simmons, one of the defense attorneys, mentioned City Councilman Braxton Winston as a potential witness. In 2016, before he ran for council, he was one of the faces of the protest in Uptown. Although, I did ask Winston if he had been subpoenaed as a witness and he said as of this afternoon he had not.
The witness list hasn’t been given to the clerk yet, but it’s likely names on the list will be read aloud during jury selection [Wednesday]. Judge Hayes said jury selection will be a long process. He made a point of saying that he wants both sides to have ample time to question jurors, especially when it comes to how a potential juror may have been influenced by media coverage of the protests and of Rayquan Borum’s case.