Trial gets under way in slaying

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, August 25, 2011

The murder trial of Ahmad R. Butler beganWednesday at the Lincoln County-Brookhaven Government Complex withjury selection, opening statements and the beginning of witnesstestimony.

    According to the indictment, Butler is accused of killing AnthonyNichols in an incident that occurred in Brookhaven on June 17,2010.

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    In the state’s opening statement, Assistant District Attorney DianeJones said Nichols, 21 at the time of his death, along with somefriends, went to meet Butler, of 920 Chickasaw St., at the HappyTime convenience store that night to buy drugs. Instead, Nicholswas shot once in the head.

    Jones said in her statement that defendant Butler did not act outof self-defense.

    Defense attorney M.A. Bass, from Hazlehurst, countered in hisopening statement that his client, Butler, was not even there, andthat witnesses could not even positively identify a suspect. Heclaimed that police error and the misidentification of six totalsuspects wrongfully led Butler to be charged with murder.

    During testimony, Brookhaven Assistant Police Chief Bobby Belltestified that he examined the scene and collected evidenceincluding taking photographs of Nichols after he was taken toKing’s Daughters Medical Center and of the inside of the car he wasshot in.

    A .25 caliber casing was found by Bell in the backseat of the SUVNichols and his friends were riding in, as well as three othercasings in the parking lot of Happy Time and Minnesota Street. Healso attested to the fact that Butler was taken into custody onJune 19, 2010.

    Dorothy Crawford, one of the occupants of the vehicle Nichols wasriding in, testified that she and Nichols had been doing crackcocaine earlier that day before driving from McComb toBrookhaven.

    She explained she was riding in the back left side of the vehiclewith a friend, later identified as Corey Harris, sitting betweenher and Nichols, on the right side of the vehicle. Nichols’girlfriend was in the front passenger seat, and another friend,Jaren Pappus, was driving.

    When they stopped at the convenience store, Crawford said a manapproached Nichols’ side to talk. They had a struggle after anexchange of drugs and money, and the man pulled a pistol and shotNichols in the head one time.

    She identified the man to be Butler, sitting at the defense tablein the courtroom.

    Testimony was also heard from Dr. Lisa Funte, a medical examinerfrom Memphis who performed Nichols’ autopsy.

    Funte testified that she determined the cause of Nichols’ death tobe a gunshot wound to the head and the manner of death to behomicide.

    The jury also heard from Nichols’ then-girlfriend, Haley BrookeTerrell Rimes, who said she and Nichols had prior dealings withButler the night before when they arranged for Butler to take a dogfrom them. She explained that was the first time she had metButler.

    In the identification and statement process with police after theincident, Rimes admitted to lying to the authorities about whyButler allegedly shot Nichols.

    She said her parents’ presence made her nervous, and she did notwant to admit to buying drugs in front of them at the time.Instead, she said the reason behind the shooting was that Crawfordowed Butler money.

    She also testified at the questioning of Bass that she did not geta good enough look at the person who approached their vehicle andshot Nichols, and therefore could not positively identify him topolice.

    She also testified she had initially identified another suspect tothe police as the killer instead of Butler.

    The trial was set to continue Thursday in the Circuit Court ofLincoln County with Judge Michael Taylor presiding.