Tears found guilty

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr During a recess in his trial, John John Tears, right, confers with his defense team, Bill Harold, left, and Michael Collins.

A Marshall County jury on Friday convicted a Lewisburg man as charged in the May 11 shooting of another Lewisburg man at the Soul Train Bar & Grill, a weekend night spot where First and Second avenues intersect with Verona Avenue.

Jonathan Doran Tears, also known as John John Tears, 30, of Seventh Avenue North, was found guilty of attempted second degree murder and five related charges in the shooting of Gary Dejuan O'Neal, 27, 1380 Monrow St., who was shot through the chest with the bullet leaving an exit wound on his right side.

The shooting caused "a punctured lung and three broken ribs," O'Neal testified on Thursday.

"Had you widened the distance between the two of you when you were shot?" Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard asked O'Neal, who replied, "Yes."

In closing arguments, the prosecutor told the jury that on that night nearly a year ago, O'Neal approached Tears and said, "'You don't like me, I don't like you. Let's leave it alone.'"

The dispute between Tears and O'Neal was about child support, according to statements in court and before the trial.

Also testifying during Tears' two-day trial was Ashton Davis of Lewisburg who said she was standing 20-25 feet from the fight between Tears and O'Neal. She was watching the fight and therefore saw the shooting.

But, according to closing arguments from Assistant Public Defender Michael Collins, Davis was "a very reluctant witness."

Collins also presented testimony from Dr. Jeffrey Jordan, an optometrist who said Tears suffered black spots in his vision and flashes of light that are consistent with injuries such as a fist striking the eye.

Tears was examined by Jordan in mid-August, nearly three months after the shooting.

"O'Neal's own testimony was that he hit Tears about 10 times in the face," Collins said in closing arguments. "And he had a horseshoe ring on" one of his fingers.

Collins argued that Tears was trying to protect himself.

Tears declined to testify during his trial. He confirmed for his public defender service attorney, Michael Collins and Bill Harold, as well as Judge Robert Crigler that he made the decision after sufficient consultation with his defense team.

Lewisburg Police Detective Sgt. Jimmy Oliver investigated the shooting.

Blood was found at an indentation in a car parked near the front of the night spot, Oliver testified. The indentation appeared to be caused by a bullet.

The detective confirmed for the state prosecutor that a bullet will slow down as it passed through a body. Barnard then asked, "You think this is where it came out?" Oliver replied, "Yes."

Barnard asked if Oliver called CSI (Crime Scene Investigators) and the detective replied, "I reckon I am CSI for Lewisburg."

First on the scene for the 1:18 a.m. call was city Police Officer Amanda Newcomb who saw nearly a dozen people outside at the parking lot at Soul Train. "I don't know nothing," was what she confirmed for Barnard as the first responses from the people she encountered.

City Police Sgt. Anthony McClain arrived next, noticed blood on the pavement and found a spent cartridge, thereby revealing the weapon was a semi-automatic handgun.

Alex Brodhag, a firearms examiner for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testified that the bullet casing came from the weapon Tears' was accused of using when O'Neal was shot.

According to statements in court: The gun was found by the detective sergeant on a tip from Officer Jason Lee who saw it on the roof of a building adjacent to Soul Train; Lee had been sitting in his patrol car on School Street one day after the shooting when he looked at the white roof; He saw something out of place, so he used the telephoto lens on his camera, concluded it was a pistol and; So Lee called Oliver who retrieved the gun from the roof where he saw "slide marks" from where the gun was tossed on the roof.

Tears was arrested by Memphis Police about two weeks after the shooting.

"Flight is something you can use to establish guilt," Barnard told the jury during the state's closing arguments.

Tears was indicted on six charges and the trial jury found him guilty on all: attempted second degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon possession of a firearm by a felon, unlawful possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and unlawful use of a firearm.

Reached over the weekend, the defendant's mother, JoAn Tears deferred comment until later.

"I'm glad the jury did the right thing," District Attorney Chuck Crawford said a few days after the trial. "We're gratified by their verdict."

Judge Crigler granted Barnard's request that Tears' bond be revoked, and in consultation with the prosecutor and the defense attorneys, the judge set May 20 for Tears' sentencing hearing.

During the minutes before Crigler adjourned court Friday, Tears stood with his head down, apparently looking at the defense table top and a writing tablet before him.

He was taken to the county jail in handcuffs ad leg chains.