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Prosecution in Fishzilla murder case introduces more witness accounts, handgun used in shooting

SALISBURY — The prosecution on Thursday continued to build its case against Dedric Michelle Mason in an abbreviated trial day.

Mason, 45, is facing charges for second-degree murder following the deadly shooting at Fishzilla Arcade in April of 2018. The incident resulted in the death of James Christopher Davis, known by his friends and family as “Milkbone,” or “Milk.” Davis was fatally shot by Mason during a scuffle at the adult gaming establishment. 

The trial got underway Tuesday afternoon once a 12-person jury and four alternates were selected. The prosecution is led by Assistant District Attorneys Barrett Poppler and Jennifer Greene while the defense is led by Ryan Stowe and Todd Paris. 

The prosecution has argued the shooting was murder, but the defense has framed the shooting as an act of self defense and asserts that Mason was trying to stop Davis from injuring her friend, Andrea Dillard, who was also involved in the fight. 

The trial continued on Wednesday, when the prosecution showed jurors video footage of the shooting and introduced several witnesses who were in Fishzilla when it occurred. On Thursday, the prosecution introduced three more witnesses and showed the jury the handgun used to kill Davis.

The first witness brought to the stand was Burlee Tobias Kersey. Currently incarcerated for drug trafficking, Kersey was transported to the Rowan County Courthouse from prison and took the stand in handcuffs. Kersey was at Fishzilla on the night of the shooting and was playing at the same table as Davis and his longtime girlfriend, Cheviss Bennett, minutes before Davis was shot.

Kersey was questioned by Greene, who had difficulty eliciting any answers. Kersey cited the Fifth Amendment, which protects people from self incrimination, several times. When he responded to Greene’s inquiries, Kersey admitted knowing little about the incident, saying he had his back turned and it was none of his business. When asked by Greene whether he felt anyone’s life was in danger during the incident, Kersey said he did not know.

The defense did not ask Kersey any questions.

The trial continued with the prosecution calling on Joshua Clawson, who was also in Fishzilla during the shooting. Clawson testified he was there to talk with Curtis Quick, an employee of Fishzilla who testified Wednesday.

Clawson echoed Quick’s account of the incident, saying the altercation started after Mason and Dillard walked into Fishzilla and sat down at the gaming table where Davis, Bennett and Kersey were playing.

When the argument continued to the front of the arcade, Clawson said he saw Mason throw Davis’ phone further back in the room. With video footage of the incident playing for the jury, Clawson pointed out the moment he ducked to avoid what he said was Davis’ phone flying through the air.

Clawson painted Davis as the victim of an attack from Mason and Dillard, who Clawson said cornered Davis and pushed him. Clawson said Davis pushed back, but added that it was in self defense. When asked by the prosecution if he believed anyone’s life was in danger before the shooting, Clawson said he did not.

In his cross examination of Clawson, Paris pressed Clawson on whether he was absolutely sure he saw Mason throw Davis’ phone. Clawson responded that he was. Paris also asked Clawson whether he saw Davis strike or choke Mason or Dillard near the counter. Clawson said he did not.  

Clawson, who said he has 20/20 vision, testified Davis was flat on his back on the floor when Mason fired her handgun. That contradicts the story put forth by defense attorneys, who say Davis was on top of Dillard choking her when Mason shot him. In a video shown several times in court, it appears Davis was on top of Dillard at least momentarily.

When Clawson left the stand, the prosecution called Salisbury Police Detective Meredith Walker to testify. Walker responded to the Fishzilla shooting and was responsible for documenting the crime scene. Walker also transported Mason to the police department immediately after the shooting. 

Walker testified that Mason smelled “faintly” of alcohol as they rode to the police department and that Mason admitted to having consumed one to one and a half Mike’s Hard Lemonades that night. Walker said she did not observe any slurred speech or slowed movements. 

Once they arrived at the department, Walker photographed Mason’s face from two separate angles. The photographs were shown to the jury and showed no evidence of injuries. Walker said she told Mason to come back to the police department if bruising appeared in the days following the incident.

During Walker’s testimony, the prosecution introduced a handgun Mason used to shoot Davis into evidence. The court’s bailiff carried the box containing the gun around the courtroom gallery and showed it to each individual juror.

When Paris cross-examined Walker, he asked her if her “injury photography training” taught her that bruising can take longer to show up on people who are Black. Walker confirmed that was indeed the case.

The trial was abruptly recessed before 3 p.m. on Thursday after Paris told Judge Hamilton he was feeling nauseated and requested the rest of the day off. Stowe offered to finish the day as Mason’s only acting attorney, but Mason told Hamilton she would rather have both Stowe and Paris present at all times.

Paris said he expected to feel better Friday morning. If the trial does resume as planned, the prosecution is poised to call a medical examiner from Raleigh as its next witness. The prosecution will likely rest its case on Friday. Then, the defense will call its first witness.

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