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VOL. 127 | NO. 45 | Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Petties Drug Trial Testimony Focuses on Defendants

By Bill Dries

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After three weeks of detailing a broad conspiracy to sell drugs in the Memphis region and silence those who cooperated with authorities, prosecutors in the Petties drug organization trial began the trial’s fifth week with more specific testimony about the two defendants.

Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis are accused of drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder for hire.

The jury in the trial in Memphis federal court saw autopsy photos of Marcus Turner, one of six men killed by the organization between 2001 and 2007 on orders from Craig Petties, the head of the organization he founded in the Kansas-Riverview section of South Memphis.

They also heard a ballistics expert from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testify Monday, March 5, that the bullet taken from Turner and the shell casing found near his body in 2006 matched a .45 caliber pistol the prosecution claims belonged to Clinton Lewis.

The gun was allegedly swapped by Lewis for a gun belonging to Temarcus Cartwright, according to police testimony last week. Memphis Police Department officer Mark Jordan testified the gun was delivered to police in Martin Luther King-Riverside Park in South Memphis in 2008 after Cartwright agreed to cooperate.

Cartwright arranged for the gun to be delivered, according to Jordan, by someone who dropped the gun on the ground on a bridge in the park and then drove away. Jordan said he and officer Therman Richardson then picked it up and took it in for testing.

Cartwright has not yet testified.

Carlos Whitelow, a drug dealer in the organization, also testified Monday that Clinton Lewis was a “well trusted lieutenant of Craig Petties.”

“He did whatever Craig Petties ordered him to do,” Whitelow said, “holding cocaine as well as violent things.”

Whitelow described his own role in the organization as “to sell as many kilos (of cocaine) as fast as I could to help (Demetrius) Fields pay Mr. Petties.”

Whitelow described Martin Lewis as “muscle” in the organization.

The jury began hearing testimony late Monday about the 2007 murder of Mario McNeal at a restaurant on Kirby Parkway.

Stanley Kilborn testified that he was standing near McNeil at the bar at Divine Wings & Bar Co. in March 2007. He estimated there were 10-15 people in the business.

“Some guy came in and opened fire on a guy who was standing behind me,” Kilborn testified adding that he didn’t get a good look at the gunman. Kilborn was grazed on the head and treated at a nearby hospital before being released that day.

Carla Davis, another DWB patron that day, testified Tuesday that she saw Martin Lewis walk into the restaurant and then heard shots near the bar just seconds after he walked into the bar area. She identified him in a police photo line up and again in the courtroom.

She said he attracted her attention because he was wearing a hoodie with the hood up on what was a warm and sunny day.

Whitelow testified earlier that he was among those in the organization who spotted McNeil. Whitelow said he spoke with Clinton Lewis twice by phone about the location before Martin Lewis called him to ask what McNeil was wearing. Right after Whitelow answered from a car parked across Kirby Parkway from the restaurant, Whitelow said he saw people running from the restaurant.

McNeil was targeted because he reportedly threatened Petties’ mother. Several other members of the organization testifying for the government in the trial have implicated Martin Lewis in the shooting.

Defense attorneys have questioned plea deals those witnesses entered into and their motives for testifying for the state. They have also questioned those witnesses closely about discrepancies in earlier statements they made to prosecutors and to a federal grand jury as well as different versions of the same event among the witnesses.

Petties, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2009, ran the drug organization from 2002-2008 from Mexico where he fled and worked directly with Mexican drug lords until his capture there.

Meanwhile, the defense will question a witness in their case early. Former Olive Branch police detective Kevin McKenzie arrived Monday in the city from Honduras, where he now lives, under subpoena.

He will testify as a witness for Martin Lewis’s attorneys in recorded testimony that will be shown to the jury later, once the prosecution completes its case in chief and the defense tells its side of the story.

McKenzie was the lead detective in the homicide investigation into the death of Marcus Turner. Turner’s body was found by the side of Stateline Road in Olive Branch.

The Petties case file includes 27 pages of case notes McKenzie made in the investigation which included working with Memphis Police as well as federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The notes chronicle McKenzie’s interviews and suspects other than Clinton Lewis who were considered at different points during the investigation.

Those suspects included Marcus Brandon, who like Clinton Lewis, carried a .45 caliber pistol. Brandon was a key witness against Clinton Lewis as well as Martin Lewis.

In other developments, a juror was excused from the panel Tuesday morning after visiting a doctor for what she had told the court was a bout of pneumonia. The doctor confirmed her statement. A panel of 18, 12 jurors and six alternates was picked for the case. The court has not identified yet which of those among the 17 left will be jurors to decide the case and which will be alternates.

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