When Chauncey Owens refused to testify per a plea agreement against Charles Jones in the Je’rean Nobles murder case earlier this month, the judge adjourned a court hearing to give Owens a chance to think things over. He did, but still refuses of honor his plea deal.
On May 14, 2010, career criminal Chauncey Owens drove a moped from the upper flat on Gilliland he shared with Charles Jones’ sister and motored to a liquor store.
There he had a brief but fateful eye contact with high school student Je’rean Blake-Nobles. Owens thought Nobles had given him a disrespectful, dirty look.
According to police, Owens recruited three other people, including Jones, to help him get even. Owens returned to the liquor store parking lot in an SUV, got out of the car and shot Nobles twice in the chest. The kid was mortally wounded.
Two days later a Special Response Team showed up at the Gilliland duplex looking for Owens. They got him, but during the misbegotten raid Jones’ daughter Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed by an SRT member.
During the investigation into the Nobles killing, police grew to believe that Charles Jones had provided Owens with the murder weapon.
Owens confessed to the shooting, and this spring made a plea deal. He would plead guilty to 2nd degree murder, and be sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison, two for felony firearm and 28 for the reduced murder charge.
The lynchpin of the deal was that Owens would testify in the case against Jones; if he said Jones had provided him with the murder weapon, an additional two years would be lopped off his sentence.
Now that deal appears to be dead.
Charles Jones was arrested and charged with murder 1, as an accessory, being a felon in possession of a firearm, felony firearm, being a habitual offender (4th) and perjury. During preliminary examination, the prosecution called Chauncey Owens, who promptly reneged on the plea agreement.
Owens’ lawyer told the judge his client would take the Fifth Amendment because the court’s grant of immunity was not sufficient. Owens wanted to be immune from any prosecution for perjury; in other words, he wanted a license to lie.
Neither the judge nor the prosecutor would go for that. Owens’ credibility was already half shot. He’s not only a convicted crook, but was being given a substantial break on his sentence in return for his testimony.
If he also gets freedom for any perjury indictment he has no incentive to tell the truth. His testimony would be essentially useless.
When the immunity issue came up, the court postponed the preliminary examination until December 22 to give Owens the chance to think things over.
Well he did, and he didn’t change his tune. Nor did the prosecutor or judge give in to his demands.
That would normally mean that the case against Charles Jones would be dismissed, but something else came along in the interim.
Jones has apparently been less discrete about the case within the jail population. According to the Detroit Free Press, the prosecution has a new witness who will testify that while in jail Owens told him who gave him the gun he used to shoot Nobles (guess who?).
Jones’ lawyer objected to the witness on hearsay grounds, dismissing the witness as a ‘jailhouse snitch.’
The statement is hearsay, of course, stated outside court by a person not under oath.
However, there are two exemptions and two dozen exceptions to the hearsay rule and one might well apply. For example, if the statement can be construed as contrary to Owens’ interests in the case, it could come in. The prosecution did note that the witness wasn’t being rewarded in any way for his testimony.
The judge did not make an immediate ruling. Instead, she adjourned the preliminary examination once again to allow Jones’ lawyer to brief the issue.
The court will reconvene on January 26, 2012 to decide whether the jailhouse witness may testify. If the judge decides to exclude that testimony, and Owens stays on his square, Jones’ lawyer will likely move to have the case dismissed.
It’s proving to be good drama, so stay tuned.