WSAZ | Huntington, West Virginia | News

NEW INFO: Garner to Get New Trial in Shooting Death of Former MU Football Player

By: Tim Irr, Kristen Schneider Email
By: Tim Irr, Kristen Schneider Email
The West Virginia Supreme Court found Jerel Garner

Curtis Keyes testifying; Judge L.D. Egnor presiding over Garner murder trial

Court of Appeals Ruling

UPDATE 10/17/13 @ 4 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A man convicted of shooting a former Marshall University football player to death will get a new trial.

The West Virginia Supreme Court found Jerel Garner's Sixth Amendment right of confrontation was denied in his 2010 trial, and granted his appeal Thursday.

In June 2010, Garner was sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison for the shooting death of Donte Newsome outside a Huntington nightclub in 2008.

In April 2011, the West Virginia Supreme Court issued an order granting Garner post-conviction bail pending an appeal. That meant Garner would return to the conditions he was under prior to his trial, which was home confinement.

Garner was put back in jail in October 2011 after violating his home confinement twice.

Last year, Garner was transferred to the McDowell County Correctional Center while awaiting his appeal.

No word on if he will be released while awaiting his new trial.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/1/12 @ 11 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Charleston man convicted of killing a former Marshall University football player will now wait out the appeal of his sentence in prison.

In June 2010, Jerel Garner was sentenced to a maximum of 25 years in prison for the shooting death of Donte Newsome outside a Huntington nightclub in 2008.

But last April, the West Virginia Supreme Court issued an order granting Garner post-conviction bail pending an appeal. That meant Garner would return to the conditions he was under prior to his trial, which was home confinement.

Garner was put back in jail in October 2011 after violating his home confinement twice. The other violation happened in May.

Garner was in court on Tuesday, asking to be placed back on home confinement until the appeal. Judge Alfred Ferguson denied the motion due to the two prior violations.

Garner is now expected to be transferred from the Western Regional Jail to a state prison, where he will stay until his appeal.



UPDATE 4/15/11 @ 10 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The young man convicted and sentenced in the murder of a former Marshall University football player is out of prison and back home after serving less than a year prison time.

Jerel Garner was sentenced in June of last year to a maximum of 25 years in prison for the shooting death of Donte Newsome outside a Huntington nightclub in 2008. But, last week, the West Virginia Supreme Court issued an order granting Garner post-conviction bail pending an appeal.

That means Garner returns to the conditions he was under prior to trial, which was home confinement.

Garner's defense attorney is planning to file an appeal requesting a new trial.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/22/10 @ 9:45 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A young man from Charleston will be going to prison for a long time.

Jerel Garner was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in March for killing Donte Newsome -- a former Marshall University football player. On Tuesday, he was sentenced to the maximum penalty -- 25 years.

The case dates back nearly two years. It was a late night/early morning battle of words between young men outside a club in Huntington. The words led to shots, and those shots led to Newsome's death.

Garner told the court Tuesday that he didn't mean to kill anyone.

"I can't say how sorry I am," Garner said. "If I could say it a thousand times it wouldn't be enough."

Garner's words may have been accepted, but Donte's Newsome's mother wanted Garner to know that her family wasn't the only one effected.

"What you did to your mom and your family, you can never repay them," Angela Smith directly told Garner. "What you did to your daughter, you can never repair."

In the end, Garner received the maximum -- up to 25 years. The families in this case will now try to move on.

"It's like torture," said Donte's father, Bruce Smith. "You want your son back so bad. You want to see him, touch him, hold him. We miss him."

Donte Newsome is buried in a section of cemetery named "Forgiveness". His mother and father say he was indeed forgiving, and that's what they'll now be looking for themselves.



UPDATE 6/22/10 @ 11:45 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The Charleston man convicted in the shooting death of a former Marshall University football player will spend between 21 to 25 years behind bars.

Jerel Garner learned his sentence during a hearing Tuesday morning in Cabell County Circuit Court.

Back in March, a jury found Garner guilty of voluntary manslaughter, wanton endangerment and carrying a concealed weapon in the death of Donte Newsome.

The shooting happened in July 2008 in front of a nightclub on 4th Avenue in Huntington.

Garner was originally charged with 1st degree murder, but a jury decided there was no malice and the shooting was not pre-meditated to warrant a murder conviction.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Judge L.D. Egnor sentenced Garner to 15 years on the voluntary manslaughter conviction, 5 years on the wanton endangerment charge, and 1-5 years on the second offense of carrying a concealed weapon. Each of the sentences are to run consecutively

Egnor gave Garner the maximum sentence on each of the counts.



UPDATE 3/30/10 @ 6:25
HUNTINGTON, W Va. (WSAZ) -- There was a real cloud of sadness after the jury found Jerel Garner guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

That means Garner intentionally killed Donte Newsome, but without malice, deliberation or premeditation. The decision carries with it a maximum penalty of 15 years. Newsome’s family was hoping for more, while Garner's family obviously wanted a not guilty verdict.

Regardless of the outcome, there were still plenty of tears. It has been a long 20 months since that deadly event in the early morning hours of July 5, 2008. That's when Garner shot and killed the former Marshall University football player. While the family is relieved Garner is heading to prison, there's a real sense of injustice that a few years is all he could get for taking their son's life.

"It's not enough," Newsome's mother Angela Smith said. "My son was a good kid and all of his friends were good, smart, hardworking individuals.It’s not enough for what he did, which was to kill my son in cold blood."

Newsome's father Bruce Smith said, "I served my country for many years in the military and all I asked the jury to do is do the right thing and provide honor and justice. This man shot down my son and all he’s going to get is a few years. He could end up back on the streets and the next one he kills could be someone else’s son. This isn’t the justice we hoped for."

Cabell County Prosecutor Chris Chiles felt similarly.

"It’s certainly not enough, and we hoped for more," he said. "But let this be a lesson of what can happen when people use guns to settle their disputes. Donte Newsome should be alive right now."

Garner was also found guilty of wanton endangerment and carrying a concealed weapon. He could receive a maximum of 25 years in prison. The judge ordered Garner’s home confinement to be revoked. He’s in the Western Regional Jail, pending sentencing.



UPDATE: Tuesday 3/30 5:32pm
HUNTINGTON, W.Va (WSAZ) -- After 2 and a half hours of deliberation the jury has return a guilty verdict in the Jerel Garner case.

The jury found Garner guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

UPDATE: Tuesday 3/30 3:39pm
HUNTINGTON, W.Va (WSAZ) -- After fiery closing arguments, the jury received the case around 3pm Tuesday afternoon.

During those closing remarks, Cabell County Prosecutor Chris Chiles reinforced eyewitness testimony saying Donte Newsome and Curtis Keyes did not have a gun and did not attack Jerel Garner.

Chiles also emphasized his point that Newsome was running away from Garner when he was shot and said the science corroborates that from the Huntington Police Department's crime scene investigator Stephen Compton.

Defense Attorney Bill Forbes countered all of that calling the prosecution's witnesses "liars and thugs". He said the eyewitnesses who testified about the events of that early morning on July 5, 2008 outside a downtown Huntington nightclub, were drunk and unreliable. He said it makes no sense that Garner would pull up and start shooting at people he didn't know. Instead, he offers a theory showing Garner was attacked and ganged up by Newsome, Keyes and their "rolling pack of thugs".

The jury is now deliberating.

Stay tuned to wsaz.com for the very latest information.

UPDATE: Tuesday 3/30 Noon
HUNTINGTON, W.Va (WSAZ) -- Special Status Judge L.D. Egnor gave jury instructions Tuesday morning in the Jerel Garner trial.

Jurors can consider several options including: First-Degree Murder, Second-Degree Murder, Voluntary Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter and Not Guilty with regards to Garner's level of guilt or innocence in the shooting death of former Marshall University football player Donte Newsome.

The jury was sent to lunch and will return at 1:15 for closing arguments, which are expected to last two hours. After that, the jury will begin deliberating.

Stay tuned to WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE: Monday 3/29 from 6pm Newscast
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After an unexpected, surprise move, a jury will decide sooner than expected whether a young man is guilty of murdering a former Marshall University football player.

Testimony for Jerel Garner's defense ended before it started on Monday.

For five days, the prosecution presented one witness after another. Some were eyewitnesses early the morning of July 5, 2008, when Jerel Garner allegedly shot and killed Donte Newsome outside a Huntington nightclub.

Others were detectives, ballistics experts or crime scene investigators discussing the science of the evidence.

In the end, the prosecution was hoping to prove one thing -- that Garner was guilty of murder. Then, it was the defense's turn. But, in a surprise move, the defense rested -- no witnesses, no testimony, nothing.

"I don’t thing the state met it’s burden of proof, other than to show my client was attacked by a bunch of thugs," defense attorney Bill Forbes said.

Newsome's mother Angela Smith said, "I think the prosecution has done a fine job in presenting its case and I think that the defense just doesn’t have anything."

Newsome's parents, Bruce and Angela Smith, were not only surprised by the move, but also disappointed.

"I really wanted to hear from Mr. Garner’s own mouth why he took our son’s life," Newsome's father Bruce Smith said.

But there will be no testimony from Garner, and the jury will soon have to decide based on the testimony that was presented.

The prosecution and defense will present closing arguments Tuesday morning, and then the jury will start their deliberations.



UPDATE: Monday 3/29 @ Noon
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The prosecution has rested in Jerel Garner's murder trial.

The defense is expected to begin presenting its case Monday afternoon.

Jerel Garner of Charleston is charged with the shooting death of 25-year-old Donte Newsome.

The shooting happened in front of a nightclub in the 600-block of 4th Avenue in Huntington back in July 2008.

Garner is expected to testify in his own defense.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.



UPDATE: Friday 3/26 @ Noon

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. (WSAZ) -- Day 4 of Jerel Garner’s murder trial continued Friday with testimony from prosecution witnesses.

Those witnesses included police and forensic investigators who testified about the crime scene, ballistics and evidence gathered in connection with the crime.



UPDATE: Thursday 3/25 @ 6PM
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Thursday was day three in the Huntington murder trial of a man charged with killing former Marshall University Football player, Donte Newsome. During the third day of the trial, the prosecution's star witness testifies.

"I knocked on the door to see, do we have a problem?" Curtis Keyes said on the stand. That's how Keyes says he remembers the exchange between him and Jerel Garner in the early morning hours of July 5, 2008.

Keyes and Newsome were close friends and former teammates on Marshall University's football team. The two and several of their friends were out celebrating his brother's birthday at the Fluid nightclub in the 600 block of Fourth Avenue.

Keyes says a scuttle inside the club earlier in the night between Garner and a friend of the players is what lead him to the confrontation outside. But, Keyes said when he opened one of Garner's car doors to question him, he got much more than he bargained for.

"I see the butt of the gun as he points at me," Keys recalled. "I slam the door and hit the ground. I see his feet hit the ground and hear boom, boom... I see Donte's hat hit the ground and then I see him twitch and he fell hard."

Keyes says Garner then turned the shooting to him -- he was shot in the foot.

"When you're running for your life and you've just seen your friend get murdered and you're trying to get away, you're not counting gunshots," said Keyes.

WSAZ.com has tried repeatedly to talk with friends and family members of Jerel Garner. They have collectively decided not to give any comments or statements.

Ivan Clark also testified today. He's another friend of Newsome and Keyes -- the one who fired on Garner in self-defense hitting him three times. Clark testified he only shot at Garner after he saw him shooting Newsome.

The defense pointed out after protecting his friends -- Clark he sped away from the scene without giving a statement to the police about who shot his Newsome.

Clark was caught by police in Gallia County several days later trying to toss his gun into the Ohio River.

UPDATE: Thursday 3/25
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A change in the judge delayed the start of testimony in a high profile murder trial in Huntington on Thursday.

Jerel Garner of Charleston is charged with the murder of Donte Newsome back in 2008.

Judge Alfred Ferguson, who was presiding over the trial, broke his heel in a fall earlier this week. On Wednesday, he presided over the trial without pain medication.

Wednesday night, Ferguson called Cabell County Chief Circuit Court Judge, Dan O’Hanlon and told him he was incapacitated and unable to continue presiding over the trial due to the injury.

O’Hanlon tells WSAZ.com that he contacted the West Virginia Supreme Court who then ordered retired, Cabell County Circuit Court Judge L.D. Egnor to take over the trial. Egnor is currently a Senior Status Judge for the state of West Virginia.

O’Hanlon says there is a provision in the state law that allows the change. He also says both attorneys agreed to the change.

Egnor will finish out the trial. O'Hanlon will take over the rest of Ferguson's docket.

No word when Ferguson will return to the bench.

The first witness of the day, Curtis Keyes, a former Marshall player who was also wounded in the shootout.

Thursday afternoon, Ivan Clark testified for the prosecution.

During opening statements, Cabell County Prosecutor Chris Chiles said that Clark was the person who shot Garner, but was given immunity because it was self-defense.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.



UPDATE: Wednesday 3/24
HUNTINGTON W.Va (WSAZ) -- Day two in the murder trial of a young man accused of killing a former Marshall University football player, and there were some fireworks in the courtroom as tempers flared. Witnesses and attorneys raised their voices.

Certainly, that can be the nature of murder trials. One side is fighting for a conviction, the other fighting for their client's freedom. On Wednesday, there was a clash of the titans over key details recalled from the night of the shooting.

"Did you forget to tell police who shot your friend in cold blood?" fired off defense attorney Bill Forbes.

"No, I knew who he was," Wilbur Hargrove responded. "Of course, I knew. Don’t you think if you’re standing right there and your best friend gets shot, you know who shot him?"

According to the defense, Hargrove, a friend of Donte Newsome and a fellow former Marshall football player, was the only person that night who did know of Jerel Garner. But, when asked by the prosecution to point him out in the courtroom, he couldn't.

Garner, a Charleston native, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Newsome. The shooting happened in the early hours of July fifth in 2008 outside of a nightclub in the 600 block of 4th Avenue.

Several witnesses testified, disagreeing over whether an altercation in the club led to Newsome and friend, Curtis Keyes, confronting Garner. Hargrove recalled that there was a spat, but unlike the defense says, he says Keyes and Newsome were not armed.

"Donte didn't have a gun," Hargrove said. "Curtis never had a gun."

But it was Hargrove's recollection of Newsome's final words that generated some of the rawest emotion today.

"’Will’, he said, 'I don’t wanna die like this. I’m too strong for this, man. I got a baby on the way’. Then, I took his phone to call his mama," Hargrove said.

Members of Newsome's family were in tears -- his mom and dad and his fiance who is the mother of one of his children. Newsome had three children.

We're still waiting to hear from one the prosecution's star witnesses, Curtis Keyes. That could happen on Thursday. The trial resumes Thursday morning.



UPDATE: 4pm Tuesday
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- During openings statements, the prosecution contends that Donte Newsome, Curtis Keyes and friends were shot at by Jerel Garner for no reason.

Prosecutor Chris Chiles says they were at the nightclub in the 600 block of 4th Avenue celebrating Keyes' brother's birthday. When they left, Garner pulled up, got out of car and fired on Newsome, who Chiles said was unarmed, even as he fell to ground. After he fired on Newsome, he turned and fired at Keyes hitting him in the foot.

Meanwhile, Chiles says their friend, Ivan Clark, went and got a gun out of the trunk of his car and began firing at Garner in defense of his friends. He says Clark is the one who shot Garner three times, but given immunity because it was self-defense.

During his opening statement, Garner’s attorney, Bill Forbes, told the court that Newsome and his friends were more of a gang who called themselves "The Fabulous Five".

Forbes says they looked out for each other and antagonized others. He also said Keyes approached the car Garner was in, armed with a gun in hand threatening him.

Some friends of the so-called “fab five”, students of Huntington High School, told them in the nightclub that Garner was hassling one of them.

Apparently, one of these students grabbed Garner's girlfriend inappropriately and angry words were exchanged.

Back outside, the defense attorney said Keyes was beating-in the passenger side window with a gun in hand in retaliation. He says Newsome opened door and punched Garner and that Garner fired back in self defense.

Garner’s attorney went on to say that police never really explored Garner’s innocence saying they only talked with friends of Newsome and Keyes. He said since Garner is from Charleston, he’s considered an outsider in Huntington and was never given the benefit of the doubt during the investigation.



UPDATE: 1pm Tuesday
HUNTINGTON, W.Va (WSAZ) -- Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 1:45 in the trial of a Charleston man charged with killing a former Marshall University football player.

Jerel Garner is charged with the shooting death of 25-year-old Donte Newsome.

A jury was picked in the case Tuesday morning.

Former Kanawha County Prosecutor is representing Garner in the trial.



ORIGINAL STORY
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – After numerous delays, the trial for a man charged with killing a former Marshall University football player is underway.

Jerel Garner of Charleston is charged with the shooting death of 25-year-old Donte Newsome.

The shooting happened in front of a nightclub in the 600-block of 4th Avenue in Huntington back in July 2008.

Garner was also wounded during the altercation, but police have never said who shot him. Investigators didn't find any gun residue on anyone else.

Another former Marshall Football player, Curtis Keyes, was also wounded in the shootout.

The trial is taking place in the Cabell County Circuit Court. Jury selection is expected to take much of Tuesday morning.

Garner is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, wanton endangerment, destruction of property and carrying a concealed weapon without a license.


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