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VOL. 127 | NO. 46 | Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Fed Drug Case Zeroes in on Defendants

By Bill Dries

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For three weeks, federal prosecutors in the Craig Petties drug organization trial have told a jury the wide-ranging story of the organization and dozens of the leaders and other players in it.

This week, they began narrowing that narrative to the two defendants in the drug conspiracy, racketeering and murder-for-hire trial: Martin Lewis and Clinton Lewis.

The testimony about the broad scope of the organization headed by Petties is just one of several extraordinary aspects of the case, which is the largest drug case ever prosecuted in Memphis federal court.

The defense was to begin its direct examination Tuesday evening, March 6, of a witness in their case.

Former Olive Branch police detective Kevin McKenzie arrived under subpoena Monday from the city from Honduras where he now lives.

He will testify as a witness for Martin Lewis’ 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, whose body was found next to 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 both Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis.

They also included Terry Antonio Peete, whom Clarence Broady and Carlos Whitelow testified earlier was involved in the abduction.

Peete denied any involvement beyond seeing Turner bound and blindfolded at a house in East Memphis shortly before his body was found in Olive Branch.

The jury in the Memphis federal trial Monday saw autopsy photos of Marcus Turner. He was one of six men killed between 2001 and 2007 on orders from 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 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.

Lewis allegedly swapped the gun 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 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.

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 McNeil 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 to 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 was on the other side of the restaurant. And in her testimony Tuesday, she identified Lewis as the person wearing a hoodie on a sunny and warm day that she saw come through the front door seconds before the shots were fired.

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.

Peete testified that he drove Lewis to the restaurant but had no idea that Lewis was there to shoot someone.

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.

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