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VOL. 127 | NO. 44 | Monday, March 05, 2012

Petties Trial Focuses on Turner Killing

By Bill Dries

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The point at which the prosecution ends and the defense begins in the Craig Petties drug organization trial in Memphis Federal Court should be when the 2006 murder of Marcus Turner becomes the center of attention again.

At the end of the fourth week of the trial, the prosecution had called investigators with the Olive Branch Police Department who investigated the murder after a city worker in Olive Branch spotted Turner’s nude body by the side of the road about a quarter of a mile from the Tennessee-Mississippi state line.

Defense attorneys, meanwhile, verified that Kevin McKenzie, an Olive Branch police detective, was the lead investigator on the Turner case for several years.

His 27 pages of case notes, which became part of the case file as the trial began, show Vacha Vaughn told McKenzie that Clinton Lewis and Marcus Brandon abducted Turner at gunpoint when Turner and Vaughn met. They put Turner in the trunk of his own car and drove away, according to Vaughn.

Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis are on trial on drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder-for-hire charges. Brandon was an important witness against Martin Lewis and a more reluctant witness against Clinton Lewis, whom he still considers his close friend.

McKenzie, who is no longer a police officer, has been subpoenaed from Honduras to testify for the defense.

A photo of Turner in the driver’s seat of a new car with fancy tire rims wearing shades and baseball cap tilted at an angle was one of the first exhibits jurors in the case saw when testimony began on Feb. 13.

More than 200 exhibits later, the same jurors saw a very different image of Turner last week.

Projected an a large screen in the courtroom, they saw a picture of Marcus Turner’s nude body laying in a semi-fetal position by the side of a road on the Olive Branch side of the state line. Part of his face was blown away from a gunshot and one of his hands was apparently maimed by the same gunshot, while scrapes and bruises adorn other parts of his body.

They also heard how a federal-local law enforcement task force investigating the drug organization of kingpin Craig Petties pursued several leads about several .45 caliber handguns suspected of being the murder weapon.

They talked with Tamarcus Cartright about a .45 caliber gun he got in a gun swap with Clinton Lewis shortly after Turner’s murder. Other witnesses have also testified about the gun swap.

Cartright or someone Cartright knew delivered the gun to the task force at a prearranged time.

Memphis Police Department detective Mark Jordan testified last week that he and Thurman Richardson, the MPD officer leading the investigation, waited on a bridge in Martin Luther King-Riverside Park in 2008 for a truck that stopped on the bridge and put a green plastic bag on the ground. The truck drove away and Richardson and Jordan picked up the bag with the gun inside.

Meanwhile, Marcus Brandon’s gun had been seized by Memphis police following his arrest after Turner’s murder in a traffic stop that ended with a car crash.

McKenzie found out Memphis police had the gun and that Brandon was trying to get it back. Memphis police held the gun and later told McKenzie the gun was tested and was not a match for the cartridge found at the crime scene.

Carlos Whitelow and Vacha Vaughn are two critical witnesses to Turner’s abduction. Vaughn said, according to McKenzie’s notes that both Brandon and Clinton Lewis were involved in the abduction.

Whitelow told McKenzie it was Clinton Lewis who turned Turner over to him and Clarence Broady and then took him back just before Turner was murdered.

“According to Whitelow, Broady was told by Petties to kill Turner but he refused and then Lewis agreed to kill him,” reads a section of McKenzie’s case notes.

Defense attorneys questioned Brandon’s honesty repeatedly during his testimony last week, suggesting authorities made a plea deal with someone who should at least have been charged with Turner’s murder for his participation in the kidnapping.

It’s a point they are certain to continue pursuing when the prosecution rests its case in chief, possibly some time late this week.

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