TRIAL BLOG: Lester Street Trial - Day 1 - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

TRIAL BLOG: Lester Street Trial - Day 1

Jesse Dotson (Source: ShelbySheriff.org) Jesse Dotson (Source: ShelbySheriff.org)

Action News 5 will be in the courtroom for the duration of the trial of Jesse Dotson.

The 2008 Lester Street Massacre was one of the worst mass murders in Memphis in decades. Dotson is accused of killing his brother during an argument, followed by three other adults and two children.

He is also accused of attempting to kill three other children, who survived the attacks.

Jurors hearing the case were selected in Davidson County, and then brought to Memphis to stay during the trial.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Lawyers for the man accused of killing six people in a home on Lester Street said Monday he did not do it.

Metal detectors, theater ropes and deputies framed the door outside Courtroom 8 as a jury heard details in the worst mass murder trial in Memphis history.

The prosecution said they have DNA, ballistics and fingerprints to prove Jessie Dotson's guilt. The defense said it was a gang hit and police dropped the ball.

During opening statements, Prosecutor Ray Lepone told the jury Dotson's own mother will testify he confessed to the killings.

"You will hear from his mother," said Lepone.

Dotson showed no emotion as the state showed graphic photos of the surviving children. Defense Attorney Marty McAfee claimed the murders were a gang hit. He said Jessie Dotson's brother Cecil Dotson stole $300,000 from high-ranking Gangster Disciple Craig Petties and that Petties ordered six men dead.

"They're not people to jack around with," said McAfee. "The evidence will show that's what Cecil Dotson did."

McAfee said the surviving nine-year-old named the real murderers. He said the child said the names Roderick and Roger.

Lepone said Dotson shot his brother after an argument, then killed every witness.

"He wasn't going back to jail," said Lepone. "He did everything he had to do to get out of that house."

The jury then heard testimony from responders. Firefighter Herbert Henley said he saw one of the young victims with a knife in his head.

"What I could see was cuts on the side of his face and what I thought was a blade sticking out the top of his head," said Henley.

People inside the courtroom were visibly disturbed by what they saw and heard.

Prosecutors said the pants of all three adults were pulled down and their shirts were pulled up. They said the bodies were there for almost two days.

When prosecutors showed the photos of three surviving children bruised, cut and in hospital beds, Dotson showed no expression.

The sequestered jury of 11 women and five men, including four alternates, could be in Memphis for three weeks.

The key witness in this case is Jessie Dotson's nine-year-old nephew, CJ, who survived the massacre.

The FBI created a model of the house at 722 Lester Street.  Sergeant Anthony Mullins said the investigation in that house has been one of the toughest of his career.

"On the first night, we collected some things," said Mullins.  "We didn't collect everything."

Mullins said there was too much evidence to collect on day one.

"There was a large amount of evidence," said Mullins.  "The most I've collected from any scene."

Mullins has been with the Memphis Police Department for 22 years.  He has worked in homicide since 2003.  In all those years, he said there was never an investigation like this one.

On the second day of the investigation, Mullins said things had to be moved.

"It required moving around items from the house to get the ultimate piece of evidence," said Mullins.

Mullins said photos from the night before were not available, and he had to go on memory.

"We knew we'd have to move a couch or a sofa and were worried about losing track of where we were," said Mullins.  "Moving things kind of had the appearance of altering the original crime scene."

Mullins will return to the stand Tuesday morning.  He has a lot of evidence to go through, including 48 crime scene photos.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.


 

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

5:17 PM - All those photos were just from the living room. Lepone asks to approach. The lawyers are at the bench for mere seconds and agree to call it a day.

The judge excuses the jury, tells them not to discuss the case with each other and sends them out of the room.

Homicide investigator Sgt. Tony Mullins will return to the stand first thing tomorrow morning. He has plenty more to go through on the stand. The judge puts court in recess until 9 am.

Jessie Dotson has left the room. Everyone else has followed suit.

Court will return at 9 am. See you then!

5:13 PM - Photo 33, back of sofa. Two holes surrounded by black circles. Exhibit 42.

Photo 34, wall behind sofa. Black circle around hole in the wall. Officer's hand is visible. 43.

Photo 35, same wall. Same hole in the wall plus an additional hole in the wall. Both encircled. 44.

Photo 36, same wall, same two holes from a different angle. Hand of crime scene officer pointing at the second hole. Black circles around both. 45.

Photo 37, blue hooded sweatshirt. What appears to be a bullet hole and blood stain. 46.

Photo 38, one of the sofa pillows. Hand pointing out three different holes in the fabric. 47.

Photo 39, coffee table in the living room. Wallet, beer bottles, beer cans, several items. 48.

Literally going through these photos one-by-one. Not showing them on the screen. Just describing them. Painstaking. Slow. Necessary.

Photo 40, pillow from the sofa. Hole in the fabric. Stuffing coming out. 49.

"Sgt. Mullins, that stack is getting smaller isn't it?" Lepone asks.

"Seven photos away," he answers.

Photo 41, two spent shell casings by a chord. exhibit 50.

Photo 42, portion of an air rifle/pellet gun, 51.

Photo 43, spent shell casing on living room floor with one of the legs of the sofa. 52

Photo 44, loveseat in the living room. Black jacket. Several pillows. Exhibit 53.

Photo 45, closer view of the black jacket on the loveseat. Silver cell phone next to it. 54.

Photo 46, loveseat. Jacket moved back to reveal a plastic baggie that contains multiple spent shell casings. 55.

Photo 47,Clear plastic baggie with shell casings. Another view. Exhibit 56.

Photo 48, Clear plastic baggie. Another angle. "Can clearly see 16 spent shell casings in it," Mullins says. 57.

5:00 PM - Photo 12. Cecil Dotson, Sr. Shows placards four and six. 21

Photo 13, spent shell casing next to Cecil Dotson, Sr. Shows placard 5. exhibit 22

Photo 14, closer view of the spent shell casing. Placard 5. exhibit 23

Photo 15, close up of another spent shell casing. Placard number 6. Near the sofa. exhibit 24.

Photo 16, another spent shell casing, placard 5, also shows part of a foot. 25

Photo 17, close up of spent projectile. Placard 7. exhibit 26

Photo 18, close up of another spent projectile. Wood or plastic. Placard 8. 27. Apparently they did use some placards at some point.

Photo 19, the shotgun. Placard 9. Exhibit 28.

Photo 20, another spent fired projectile. Placar 19. Exhibit 29.

Photo 21, spent projectile just under the sofa. Placard 20. Exhibit 30.

Photo 22, black circle with a number 10 to show a hole in the wall. 31.

Photo 23, close up of Cecil Dotson's left hand holding a plastic baggie of what appears to be marijuana. 32

Photo 24, living room, sofa, love seat. Where the victims were found but without the victims. Bodies had been removed. 33

Photo 25, living room floor where the 2 female victims were. Bodies removed. 34

Photo 26, closer view of the precious photo. Shows blood stains on the carpet. Cell phone and other items visible. Diaper bag visible in the shot. 35

Photo 27, sofa and large amount of blood on the cushion. Exhibit 36.

Photo 28, east end of the sofa from a different angle showing blood stains and other items. Exhibit 37.

Photo 29, the other end of the sofa to show blood stains on the pillow. Exhibit 38.

Photo 30, the east end of the sofa, the arm of the sofa. A black circle around a defect, or hole, in the upholstery. Exhibit 39.

Photo 31, Sofa. Cushion raised. Blood stains. Spent projectile. Exhibit 40.

Photo 32,  Closer view of the previous photo to show stains and projectile.Exhibit 41.

4:45 PM - Lepone hands Mullins a stack of photos that Mullins took that night inside 722 Lester Street before the bodies had been removed. Mullins flips through the stack of photos silently. Mullins describes the pictures on-by-one.

Photo 1 is a picture from the front door of a wall with photos of the wall. Exhibit 10.

Photo 2 is a picture from just inside the front door showing the back of the television. 11

Photo 3 is a picture of one of the victims, male, Hollis Seals. 12

Photo 4 is a picture of the living room taken from the picture. Shows overturned baby furniture, drapes. The judge surveys each photo after Mullins describes it. 13

Photo 5 is a picture of the living room, primarily of the overturned baby furniture, like a close up. 14

Photo 6, living room. Shows the other three adult victims in the position in which they were found. Williams, ROberson, Cecil Dotson, Sr. 15

Photo 7, living room. Closer view of the three victims. Dotson, Roberson, Williams. 16

Photo 8, picture of spent shell casing on the floor next to Mr. Dotson. 17

Photo 9, picture of spent projectile. Exhibit 18

Photo 10, picture of a different fired projectile on the living room floor next to the sofa. 19

Photo 11, picture of spent cartridge case stuck in the seat cushion in the back of the sofa. 20

4:30 PM - Lepone hands Mullins a packet of paper. The first four pages are the key that lists all the items collected from the house. It is color coded. Red items is blood evidence. Black items are weapons evidence.

The next six pages are the sketches. Mullins created these sketches with the CSI officer. The sketches are entered in as evidence.

Photos are taken on the scene. Mullins explains that when an item is tagged and removed from eh house, they are brought to 201 Poplar, assigned a number and maintained either in this building or at a separate building, a large warehouse on Klinke Road.

Lepone publishes the sketches on the overhead projector. The first sketch looks like it was computer generated. Mullin points out the four bodies of the adult victims. They are denoted by different blue numbers. He points out where they found spent bullets, empty casings, beer cans and bottles, carpet samples, fingerprints. He continues to explain what each number on the sketch stands for. This sketch is the living room. The sketch is not drawn to-scale.

Mullins created sketches and keys for each room in the house, including the bedroom. Blood samples and weapons taken from the bathroom, hallway, two bedroom, kitchen, master bedroom. The stuff from master bedroom was taken for fingerprint evidence. There is not a sketch of the master bedroom.

4:20 PM - Mullins says he was the lead on the case. He says CSI officers are not like CSI on TV. They do not investigate the case. They are their for collection and documentation of the case. The CSI officers don't get involved in the direction of the case. They hand everything over to investigators. CSI does not do any type of forensic testing on the evidence.  CSI lifts the prints but does not examine. They just collect the evidence, tag it, and document what they did.

Mullins says Armstrong's job was strictly supervisory. The Lt. is there to supervise. Can get involved, but really has decision-making power that goes above investigators' pay grade. The Lt. is abreast of what's going on. The case coordinator can't approve overtime or out-of-town trips. The Lt. has to make those decisions. The day-to-day stuff is at the discretion of the case coordinator.

Mullins says investigators documented some evidence and collected very little that very first night. Four bodies in own room where there was not a lot of room to operate. It was a small room. He says they did collect some evidence that needed to be collected immediately. Did not process the entire crime scene that first night. Left the house at 2:30 am on eh 4th. He came back at 10:30 am the same morning. Had to remove some animals when they came back. Started to really process the crime scene. By 2:30 am on the 4th, all the bodies had been removed. The medical examiner, Dr. Karen Chancellor, made the scene as well as body removal technicians. Eight people from the ME's office made the scene. They  did not come until investigators gave the okay.

Mullins says homicide investigators create sketches of a crime scene. Sketch is like looking down from above on the scene to get a visual idea of what the scene looks like. The sketch has a key, too. Number associated with an item found on scene.

Mullins explains the use of yellow placards on a crime scene. He says they did not use placards for everything they collected inside the house. He says they collected more evidence from this scene than any other in his career. He says they knew they were going to have to move items to get things out so they did not use placards.

He says, on the second day, CSI had to go by his notes on what the scene looked like from the night before.

4:10 PM - On some cases there is a smoking gun. Five eyewitnesses who all saw the same thing, for example. Some cases are a mystery. No idea at the outset on suspects, how many, etc. Everyone is a suspect. Work the scene, talk to witnesses. Start to get leads, follow them. Eliminate some suspects, narrow down the field. Information that ties the suspect to the scene, information that only the killer would know, then you have your suspect.

Mullins leans forward, folds his hands, and drops them between his legs. His forearms rest on his quads. He is loose, like he's done this a million times before.

Mullins say his supervisor, Lt. Tony Armstrong, called him to the scene. Mullins was the first homicide investigator to arrive on scene. Already there were felony response investigators. Alive victims had already been transported. Dead ones had already been verified dead. MFD starting to leave the scene. Mullins says he and 2 felony response investigators went through the scene in search of other victims.

Mullins says he had two uniforms stand guard at the door and told them to not allow anyone else in the house unless they got the okay from him first. Even homicide investigators had to have on proper equipment first.

Armstrong arrived. Mullins showed him around the house. They discuss the possibilities. Homicide? Suicide? Home invasion? Who were the victims? Did they live here? Mullins went to homicide office, typed up search warrant, got it signed by a judge.

Once he got the warrant, several homicide investigators went into the house to document the evidence. they wore gloves and booties. Mullins job was to document the living room and the dead there. Other investigators had other parts of the house. Mullins says, in essence, he supervised the crime scene.

4:00 PM - Lawyers have agreed to a stipulation of fact so that a particular witness does not have to come in and testify.

FBI agents came in, measured the house, etc. They created a model. 3/4-inch equals one foot.

The prosecution rolls in a scale model of the house at 722 Lester street. It's big, the size of a the entire surface of a folding tabletop. Lepone and an MPD investigator have to lift it above their heads to get it behind the wall and in front of the jury. It's a to-scale model of 722 Lester prepared by FBI.

The state calls Sgt. Anthony Mullins to the witness stand. You know him as Tony Mullins.He;s homicide investigator with MPD.

Mullins takes the stand. He's been with MPD for 22 years. Assigned to homicide bureau, same as back in March, 2008. Mullins gives some of his background, experience. Homicide since 2003. Before that he worked in felony response, during which he handled some homicides. In seven years, he's worked between 600 and 700 homicide cases plus another 500, or so, death cases. Been to a blood stain analysis school. Been to basic crime scene investigation school. Mullins says he;s needs a case officer in some cases.

Deputies and the witness coordinator haul in a crate full of evidence that is all wrapped up un brown paper baggies. One of the pieces stands straight up, like a two-by-four, probably six feet tall. The crate of evidence is sitting directly in front of me, partially blocking my view. The crate is loaded with pieces of evidence.

Mullins explains, in general, how homicide investigators wind up on a scene. Death. Homicide gets called. Supervisor sends out investigators on a rotating basis. Case coordinator is assigned with keeping everything in order, setting direction, and maintaining case file. Case coordinator does the least amount of field work. Case coordinator assigns tasks and lets the information come to him. Homicide teams, based on days off. If Mullins is off on Saturday and Sunday, he is on call from 8 am Monday morning to 8 p.m. Friday night. Any homicide that comes in during that time, it belongs to the team on call.

3:48 PM - McDevitt is an MFD employee. Firefighter/paramedic. He was called to 722 Lester Street on March 3, 2008. One of the last ambulances to arrive. Instructed to come in and confirm the deaths of the people inside the house. The live victims were already outside the house and in the process of being transported to the hospital.

McDevitt says he and his partner ran EKG strips on each victims and touched each victims in search of vital signs, pulse, and temperature. There four adults inside the house to the right. Two men, two women. He says paramedics did not move the bodies. They touched the bodies to monitor for pulse or absences thereof. Did not move the bodies.

Griffin hands McDevitt a picture of the living room with the bodies inside. Griffin points out the female with the shirt pulled up and the pants pulled down. McDevitt says they did not remove her clothing. Victims crouched down by the couch. McDevitt says they did not remove the clothing from that victim either.

Another photo. McDevitt says the male victim's shirt was already up and pants already down. He says they did not remove the clothing. McDevitt says they went to check the two children first. They confirmed their deaths. They left their bodies in the position in which they were found. He says they lifted up their shirts to put the EKG strip on them but them lowered the shirts of the children. He says they were wearing gloves.

McDevitt says there was no fresh blood. All the blood was dried. His gloves were not soiled and he commented on it to his partner that night. He made patient care reports for each victim. He tried to be as descriptive as possible for each victims.

Griffin done. No cross. McDevitt done on the stand.

The lawyers approach the bench for a private conference.

3:40 PM - Court is back in session.

Jessie Dotson converses with members of his defense team. He is certainly involved with his own defense.

Prosecutor Damon Griffin calls Patrick McDevitt to the witness stand.

Apparently, we'll have to wait for the scale mock-up of the house.

3:30 PM - Court still in recess. When court resumes, the prosecution is going to introduce a scale mock up of the house at 722 Lester Street.

Don't know how big or what it'll look like, but we should see shortly.

3:20 PM - Court still in recess, though it appears as though things will resume shortly.

3:10 PM - Court remains in recess. Personal conversations abound, but no trial right now.

3:00 PM - Prosecutor Damon Griffin calls Jason Vosburgh to the stand. He is employed by MFD.

March 3, 2008. Vosburgh was on truck 8. Made the call to 722 Lester. Vosburgh says they thought it was a carbon monoxide call so they put on their turnouts. As soon as they got there, they realized they would n't need the turnouts because, "you could smell the blood in the air."

He describes the scene when he stepped in and says he, "looked at my lieutenant and said 'what the hell is going on here.'" The Lt. told him to get to looking for more victims. He says they found a live one. Vosburg says he went to the little one in the corner. He was cold. There was nothing there. He ran out and got a monitor for the child who was still alive in the bedroom. The live victim was transported out of the house. PAtching him up, bringing him down the hallway. Passed another room where more guys told him there was another victim in another bedroom but he was deceased.

Herb told them that the boy in the bathroom was alive. Vosburg stepped inside the bathroom. He saw the boy turn his head and look at them. They packaged him up and got him out, got him on a stretcher and out the door to an ambulance. Vosburgh says he did not provide anymore medical assistance to anyone else. Griffin is done with VOsburgh. Defense has no cross.

VOsburgh steps down from eh stand.

The judge takes a break and put the court in recess.

2:51 PM - Henderson calls Daniel Moore to the witness stand. Moore is a MFD employee. Almost 10 years. He is a firefighter/EMT. Emergency Medical Technician. Rides on ambulance. Provides first response at car accidents, heart attacks, anything.

March 3, 2008. Dispatched to 722 Lester Street. Toned out to a call that Truck 8 had already been sent to. All they were told is multiple casualties. Truck 8 company was in the front yard. With that many casualties during that time of year, they assume that it is a carbon monoxide situation.

Moore stepped in, saw the deceased adults in the living room. Moore says they were obviously expired. The victim laying by the TV had been laying there for awhile. There was obvious trauma. Just by looking at them and the horrific scene that was there it was obvious that they were dead. The blood was not fresh. He did not physically check them. Moore went into the bathroom after Henley told them there was a kid in the bathtub. Moore and another EMT went into the bathroom. Henley had found the kid. They went in there to try to save him. When the boy moved, it surprised them all. Moore says CJ turned his head. The next thing we saw it was one of the most horrible things I've ever seen: the knife sticking out of the kid's head.

"It was absolutely the most horrific thing I've ever seen."

He says he and his partner were shocked. Punctures on abdomen. Superficial wounds to his neck. "Knife to his head. I'll never forget it."

Moore says they loaded the kid onto the spine board and drove him to the hospital.
Henderson is down with Moore. The defense has no questions for him.

Moore is released from the witness stand. He steps down.

2:45 PM - Henderson is done questioning Henley.

Defense attorney Gerald Skahan gets up to cross-examine him. Skahan asks him how many other people, including police officers, had been inside the house. Henley says he doesn't know. He says no one told him anything before he went in the house. He says he just went in there to follow his people who had already gone in. He says he went in to assist the paramedics and EMT's who might be working on somebody. He says the bodies in the living room were obviously deceased. He says he didn't touch any of them.

He says he saw the officer with the infant. The same officer said that there was one on the bathroom. He says the officer told him that he thought the kid in the tub was gone but he didn't know. Henley says he pulled the shower curtain back. He assumes the other officer had been in the bathroom and saw the kid in the tub. But Henley testifies that when he walked into bathroom he couldn't see the kid because the curtain was pulled.

Skahan is finished.

Henley steps down from the witness stand.

2:35 PM - Henley explains that the lighting in the living room was poor, maybe there was a lamp off in the corner.

Henderson hands a series of photos to the courtroom deputy to hand to the jury. The jury is reviewing the photos that were previously posted on the overhead projector. Now they are looking at the pictures up, close, and personal.

The rest of the room is silent. No activity. The jury just looks at the pictures.

2:32 PM - Prosecutor Reggie Henderson calls Herbert Henley to the witness stand. He comes into the room through the front door. The camera is allowed to show his face. Henley is a Memphis Fire Department employee. 25 years with MFD. He is a driver. He drives fire trucks.

March 3, 2008, called to 722 Lester. Raining that night. Had made a ton of runs. Got call over radio. Had multiple victims dead.

IUnitially thought it must be carbon monoxide since it was cold that night. Communicated with other crews while en route tot he scene. Henley pulled up to house with the truck. Cleared a lane for the ambulances. The firefighters got off the truck, put on air masks, went into house.

Henley went into the house. One paramedic was in a bedroom working on someone. He saw an adult male kneeling down on the couch, dead. Two other adult females dead on or near the couch.

Henderson hands Henley a photo, exhibit one previously introduced. It;s the photo of the living room. He says he saw the three people on the sofa and then proceeded on to the bathroom. He says he pulled the shower curtain back. Little boy was in the bath tub. Henley says the boy had one hand on his head. The other hand twitched. The head was pointed toward the spigot. Henley and two other paramedics rushed to get him on a spine board to get him to an ambulance.

He says he say cuts on the boy and what he thought was a saw blade sticking out of his head. He says the bathroom was a mess, blood all over the bathroom. A mess. Henderson hands him another photo. He ID's it as the bathroom as he remembers seeing it at first, minus the drawn back shower curtain and the boy. He says he drew back the curtain. Henley says they carried him out of the house and they kept re-assuring him that they were going to get him out of there. The boy said something but Henley couldn't make it out.

2:23 PM - Davis says he went into every room while securing the house. He says he checked all the victims for signs of life, "minus the adults." He says they were very obviously dead. He checked all the children, even had to physically touch some of them to make sure. He says, at first, they all appeared dead.

Partner that night was Swain. There was an officer McCollum on scene too. They all went into he house around the same time. McCollum may have been there first. McCollum arrived on scene first, but entered the house after Swain and Davis. Three officers went in. A fourth officer stayed at the door to make sure no one came in or out.

Inside, the three officers split off and were not checking the house together.

McAfee finishes his questioning.

Lepone asks a follow up.


Davis says preserving life is more important than preserving a scene.

Davis is finished on eh witness stand.

2:20 PM - Lepone is finished. He passes the witness. The defense asks for a moment. McAfee jots down some notes.

I can't see Jessie Dotson's face from my position in the courtroom. I can't describe his reaction.

McAfee takes over questioning.

Davis says when he got to 722 Lester there were already several people outside. He says he showed up for a welfare check. He says there was no one in custody and he did not speak with any woman on scene when he got there.

Davis says he spoke with Lt. Davidson after that night, but never on that night. Davis says he does not have much knowledge on what a case coordinator is because he has never been in homicide. But Davis explains what a case coordinator is, vaguely. Davis says he could tell someone had been hurt when he looked in.

He says he first noticed the smell. "You could smell the dead bodies." WHen he first looked in, he could see a foot in the house. He says he scanned the house for any threats. He had another officer scanning with him.

They cleared the living room, saw the bodies, tried to assess the situation. Davis says the very first thing he did was peek through the crack in the door. He could see something was wrong. He could smell something wrong. He says he's been trained on securing scene, then evaluating what's going on the scene. Securing the scene makes sure there is no threat to oneself or others. Make sure no one enters or leaves that scene.

Davis says he's been taught that DNA exists on crimes scenes. He knows the value of securing such evidence.

2:10 PM - Lepone hands Davis a picture. Davis recognizes as the scene from that night. It's a view of the living room from the view of the front door. There are bodies in it the picture, he says.

Lepone hands Davis another picture. Davis identifies it as the bedroom where he found the children. He makes note of the children. There is a portion of the bunk bed that is visible in the picture.

Short bench conference.

Another picture. The living room. The first individual he saw, an adult male, dead near the TV.

Another picture. The bedroom. A photo of a small child, dead. Same room where he found that child and another child that he though was dead at the time. The body is next to the bed. The other child is not in the picture, having been removed by paramedics in an attempt to save it's life.

Another picture. The bathroom. The shower curtain is drawn back. And no one is in the bathtub. Otherwise it looks the same to Davis.

Davis says another officer found the infant. He says the other officer came out holding the infant. Davis says he had no other involvement in this case.

Lepone plans to publish the first five pictures. The judge warns them that they will be graphic, but are necessary. he tells them they are not allowed to make a decision based on emotion. They are being showed so they can understand, not decide.

Lepone publishes the first photo on the overhead projector. The TV is in the frame. The living room is visible. There are human legs visible in part of the shot. There are bodies on the sofa, but the quality of photo is not great and the overhead distorts the photo slightly.

Lepone publishes the second photo. A child's bedroom. There is part of a bunk bed visible. Hallway bedroom. A child is dead in the foreground. There is another blood spot near the body.

THird photo. Living room again. Body laying on the floor.

Fourth photo. The floor of a bedroom, the next bedroom down the hall. There is a small child dead in the room. Another child had been in the room, but is no longer there. Davis thought the other child was dead initially.

Fifth photo. The bathroom. The shower curtain is pulled all the way back. There is blood all over the bathroom. Davis says there was a child in the tub when he got to him. The child had a knife in his head.

1:58 PM - The judge welcomes the jury back. He cracks a joke about how cold he keeps it in the courtroom.

"I see you're all bundled up now," he says.

The jury laughs.

"I told you wouldn't get hot in here, not after last week," Beasley says. Apparently the courtroom in Nashville was like a sauna.

Ray Lepone calls officer Randall Davis to the witness stand.

Davis steps through a back door of the courtroom and takes the stand. The judge has ordered no photos of Davis. He is a Memphis Police Officer. has been for 4 years. Assigned to Tillman Station, Delta shift. He got the call to go to 722 Lester street on March 3, 2008.

The call was a suspicious call to check on welfare. Another officer made the scene too. The door was open. Went to the house. As soon as we walked in you could see the first body. No one had entered the house before them. Initially Davis saw one male adult in front of the TV. As soon as he saw the body he checked to see if he was alive or dead. He was obviously dead as were the others in the room. Started to clear the room. 3 cops in the house, one clearing the building on the outside. Davis says he found one juvenile in the bathtub. Davis say he thought the boy was deceased. WHen he went to check him, the boy's eyes twitched. He alerted another officer. Continued to check. Went down the hallway into another bed room. Dead child. Another bedroom. Two children. No signs of life on either of those two children. At that time, he thought they were dead. Observed dried blood throughout the house. He says he did not see any fresh blood.

The Memphis Fire Department arrived about the time he was walking back from the back bedroom. he alerted Paramedics that there was a kid who was alive in the back. Davis went on to continue to secure the area.

 

 

1:51 PM - Jessie Dotson is back in the courtroom. He's taken his seat behind the defense table and converses quietly with a female member of the defense team. Among other duties, her job description also entails sitting alongside Jessie Dotson at all times.

He smile at her as the two continue to converse in a lively fashion.

The jury is back in eh room.

1:49 PM - Court is still in recess. The first state witness will be Memphis police officer Randy Davis, who was the first officer to step inside the house at 722 Lester.

He will take the stand first, but the court has ordered that the camera not show his face because of his background.

Court should get underway shortly.

1:35 PM - Court is still in recess, the lunch break is not yet over.

A nice woman who works downstairs just stopped by my spot on the bench to request that I please spell the word "the" correctly. I'm trying, I swear. For some reason, my fingers just hit those keys in the wrong order so that it typically comes out as "h te," t eh," or some variation thereof. I apologize.

She was understanding. I appreciate yours, too.

1:22 PM - I am back in the courtroom, though the lunch break is still in full effect. The courtroom is mostly empty. Court official are here discussing other matters of little consequence.

Defense attorney Gerald Skahan and prosecutor Ray Lepone are conversing with each other. It appears as though Lepone is letting Skahan know some of the subjects he is about to cover. It's not unusual for prosecutors and defense attorneys to have a working relationship. Neither side is trying to blind side the other.  They just have a different view of the facts of the case.

12:35 PM - McAfee is finished with his opening statement. He takes a seat.

The judge puts the court in recess and declares a lunch break.

Court is scheduled to return at 1:30 p.m..

The first witness may be CJ Dotson, who was nine at the time of the attack and who was stabbed in the head. Then again, I'm also hearing that it may be the first officer to arrive on scene. Either way, both with testify at some point.

The courtroom empties.

12:30 PM - "To sum it up, those are not people you jack around with," McAfee says. Cecil Dotson did."

McAfee says investigators did not follow every lead.

McAfee turns his attention to the interview with CJ in the hospital. He reads from a transcript. Apparently CJ first told investigators that a man name Roderick did this to them. Investigators kept asking him question. He answered with mumbles. They asked him about Roderick. he gave them more information. Investigators kept asking him questions.

"Yeah, you know that man with the bloody mask, that's who did it," McAfee reads.

McAfee keeps reading from the transcript. Apparently CJ answered several questions with, "Yeah, bitch, yeah."

McAfee says CJ told them who did it, Roderick, but that we won't hear from Roderick at trial. He says the state had a theory and refused to change it.

McAfee says the state has to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty.  McAfee tells the jury they have a tough road now to hoe. They must decide if their evidence matches their theory. McAfee says the unanswered questions come from right in the middle of the bloodbath.

"In the end of all the evidence in this case," McAfee says. "The evidence is going to compel you to vote not guilty."

12:20 PM - "This case is really strong. This case is really strong... but not for them," McAfee says, pointing at the state.

McAfee says there were holes in ROberson's jeans. She got shot in the leg. He says there was cocaine found very near Roberson's vagina.

McAfee says it was easier for the state to pin it on one man than to chase down gangs. McAfee says investigators were being told to check into gangs by multiple sources. He says Cecil was a Gangster Disciple, strong ties, was involved with GD's. They are secretive, organized, and violent if they are crossed, if you steal from them.

Weeks before this killing, a very high-ranking GD, Craig Petties, was arrested. he is accused of ordering the killing of six men. Somebody snitched. He was arrested in Mexico. That happened very close to this killing. Eric Dion Brown, aka Big EZ, was killed very near the Lester Street killing. McAfee says Vernon Motley, the man who is prison for killing Big EZ, was a member of a rival gang. This is one of the possible ways Cecil was crossed with the GD's. He wanted to get out of the gang. That's not how it works. Tammy Randolph is Cecil Dotson's first cousin. She was the live-in girlfriend of Vernon Motley, the man who killed Big EZ.

McAfee says Cecil Dotson had stolen money from the GD's. $300,00. It had been given to him as a front for dope. Cecil never returned with the money or the dope. McAfee says Cecil told people of this crossing. McAfee says Cecil Dotson made a code violation in the GD's and it would have resulted in discipline. McAfee says Cecil made everyone mad when they went to pick up Hollis' gun. A few hours later everyone ended up dead.

McAfee pulls out a huge white board, "a gang chart," he calls it. He apologizes for it being so small. He points out different areas of town that are controlled by different people, like a governor, etc. He says Big EZ was a district overseer. "That's who Vernon Motley killed."

McAfee holds up the white board right in front of the jury so they can get a good look at it. He says nothing while they look. There is silence in the room as the jury takes it all in.

12:10 PM - McAfee says he will subpoena the case coordinator, Sgt. Davidson. McAfee says certain information was released to the family and perhaps even the public during the investigation. McAfee implies that the forensic evidence doesn't;t match the state's theory so they just changes it up so that it would all match up.

McAfee describes the scene, with a total of nine victims, as a bloodbath. "It's a bloodbath."

McAfee describes blood spatter, like stepping into a puddle. GSR. Investigators searched for Gun Shot Residue. McAfee says people who have been in fights, in traumatic events, you'd look at their hands for signs of cuts and abrasions. He says investigators did look at some people and not others. McAfee says the idea is for the state to tell them a story, but it goes both ways.

McAfee says there was not sign of cuts, bruises, DNA, splatter, etc on Jessie Dotson. The guns are never found. The knife handles are never found. McAfee implies that Dotson would not have left with all of that stuff on a bike. McAfee says investigators found other fingerprints on scene, many of them unidentified, and none of them came back to Jessie Dotson. McAfee says there was  huge amount of DNA testing from the scene, more than he's ever seen. None of them came back matching to Jessie Dotson. He says some of the DNA testing came back to other unidentified males. He says the hairs found under Roberson came back to an Asian male. He says they found two hairs came back to a Caucasian male. They're found in Sindri ROberson's blood.

NOON- The jury is back in the room. So is Jessie Dotson.

MArty McAfee gets up to deliver the defense's opening statement.

"Good morning! It's my pleasure to represent Jessie Dotson," he says.

He says the state presented a theory and that we shouldn't just stop there. He says Jessie put a gun to his head and said, "I'm not going back to jail... for something I didn't do." McAfee says this is a tragedy and there is nothing to keep it from being a jury. He says it will be a another tragedy if the jury doesn't;t deliver a verdict of not guilty. he says the evidence will show he's not guilty. He says the media is going berserk. He says the investigators have the camera trained on them at all times, including the First 48 cameras that had them re-creating scenes and wearing the same clothes from one day to the next. He says it interfered with good solid police work. He says the show is not called "Morally Certain." It's called "First 48," meaning get it solved in the first 48 hours.

McAfee says Jessie was there when his family was killed. He says Jessie had a gun with no bullets and he hid. he gets up and thought everybody was dead. He says Jessie went through a traumatic event. So he got up and ran. He thought everybody was dead so he left.

"I'm not going back to jail for something I didn't do." He's arrested days later. He's suicidal when he's brought downtown. He cries and lays down his head on the table. The detective will say Jessie looks defeated while being questioned.

McAfee tells the jury that there is a disagreement and the jury must decide Jessie's guilt or not guilt. McAfee says he likes things simple. He has two young kids at home, 6 and 8. Nicholas and Rachel. They do puzzles on the dining room table. They do different puzzles and swirl all the pieces together. The pieces don't match until you pull 'em apart. He says the state's puzzle has only four pieces.

11:52 AM - Court is back in session. The judge calls for the jury.

11:40 AM - Spelling correction. Jesse Dotson is actually Jessie Dotson, with an 'I.'

I'll try to get that fixed in the future.

As for the other typos, I apologize in advance. I'm not a very good typist. I'll do my best!

11:35 AM - Court remains in recess.

The courtroom is mostly quiet save for a few whispered conversations.

A deputy tells the pool photographer to shut down his audio stream anytime the court is in recess and anytime there is a private bench conference. The pool photographer obliges.

The pool photographer obliges. His name is Luke. He is a photographer for "After the First 48," a program that will follow up on the original show that followed the investigation. I'm not sure when it's scheduled to air.

11:20 AM - Lepone says Jesse told them information about the crime scene that had never been released to the public. He stabbed the children, there was a shotgun. The worst mass murder in Memphis history was domestic violence. A brother killed a brother. Lepone says Jesse Dotson would do whatever he had to do to get out of that house with no witnesses. Lepone says he will ask the jury to find Jesse Dotson guilty of first degree murder of Cecil Dotson, Marissa Williams, Hollis Seals, Sindri ROberson, Cecil Dotson, II, Cemario Dotson. GUilty of attempted murder of Cedric, Ce'Naya, and Cecil.

Lepone tells the jury that they will hear from CJ. He's scared but he will do the best he can.

Lepone is finished with his opening statement.

The judge puts court in recess for a short break before the defense's opening statement.

The jury files out. Dotson discusses matters with his defense team. His eyebrows are raised. He is animated, but whispering. The conversation lasts less than 60 seconds.

He is returned to an holding cell outside the courtroom. The courtroom empties. Court in recess.

When we return, defense attorneys Marty McAfee and GErald Skahan will put forward their opening statement.

11:15 AM - March 9, 2008... Police begging to corroborate the confession. Investigators find CJ's bike at Jesse's girlfriend's house. His girlfriend's daughter will testify that Jesse came home at 5:30 am. The daughter heard the water turn on. There were bleach stains on the carpet. GIrlfriend will testify they did not spill any bleach. Jesse then went to sleep in her bed. He did not show up at work the next day.

Before the confession, he told investigators and family that he had been dropped off at girlfriend's house around 2:30 am, not that he had ridden the bike over there. Lepone says Jesse was the first person to tell investigators about "Cecil's folks," meaning the GD's. Jesse fingered a guy named Doc Holliday as a guy who could've done it because Doc and Cecil had a falling out. Jesse told police there would be a gang trial and the punishment would be death. Then cop car shows up at cousin's house and he puts a gun to his head.

After the confession his behavior changed, Lepone says. Lepone says he left 722 Lester between 2 and 4 am on MArch second. They were not found until 6 p.m. until March 3. That means the bodies were there for 40 hours before being found. The babies were suffering alone for 40 hours.

On March 3, 2008, Jesse went to work while his family members were dead and the babies were suffering. Lepone says Jesse told his family nothing. The people are found around 6 p.m.. Jesse "tells his lies again." Lepone says Jesse kept bringing the GD's into it over and over again.

11:05 AM - Crime scene had been altered. Shell casings collected and placed in Ziploc bag. Sindri Roberson's pants pulled down. Cecil's pants had been pulled down. Hollis' pants pulled down too. Investigators learned that Cecil had gang to ties. He called himself a Gangster Disciple. Investigators hit walls: what gang member would kill women and children.

Investigators did not let any family members, including Jesse Dotson, know which kids were alive and which were dead. The police needed one of the kids to wake up and tell them something.

March 6, the family is terrified. Nicole Dotson, sister, calls MPD to tell them she thinks someone was in her house. She scared. Police put the family, including Jesse, in protective custody.

March 8. Before the police could put the protection order in place, they had them at a cousin's address. An MPD squad car pulled in front of address. Never went inside to tell the family why they were there. Family members will testify that he saw the cop car. he grabs a gun, puts the gun to his head, and says "they are going to pin this on me. I'm not going back to jail."

Family members race out of the house. They tell the cop what was going on. The cop got on the phone with him and calmed him down. The cops got the gun, put the family, including Jesse, in protective custody.

March 7. Police wanted to talk to CJ. A 9-year-old might know something. Pat Lewis, from Child Advocacy Center, goes to speak with CJ. He's still in bad shape. EYes still swollen shut. He shouts names. Roger. Then an uncle who died. He curses. Chest expands. Then can't talk any more. Later he calms down. More coherent. Sgt. Caroline Mason notices and talks to him.

"What happened to you?" she asks.

"I was stabbed in the chest," he answers.

"Who did this to you?"

"Junior. Uncle Junior."

It's a lead. Police have to talk to Jesse Dotson. They put him under arrest, bring him to 201 Poplar. Began to talk to him again. He told them the same story. The last time I saw my brother was when he dropped me off at Sheila's around 2:30 am.

Lt. TOney Armstrong, no deputy director, takes over the interview. MAson took note of weird things Jesse said, bringing up things between he and Cecil. Armstrong let Jesse know that CJ was alive and ID'ed him as the killer. That's when Jesse confessed. Lepone says, Dotson tells Armstrong that he and Cecil had been drinking all day. They got into an argument when they went to pick up the gun. They went back to 722 Lester. Jesse told Armstrong that his brother wouldn't let him go. Cecil went for a shotgun, then put the gun down. That's when Jesse shot Cecil. He then just started shooting. Jesse told police Cecil had a 9 mm that Marissa had purchased for him. he told Armstrong he shot the women. He told Armstrong the kids saw him so he stabbed them. He got the knives from inside the house, in the kitchen.

After he confessed, he asked to see his mother. The police get here and bring her to him. He asks to be alone with her. The mother will testify. She will tell the jury that her son told her he did it. She didn't believe it. He told her the same story he told Armstrong. She asked him "What about those babies?" "They saw it, mama." Then he hugged his mote hr goodbye, Lepone says. He told investigators he left on CJ's bike, that's how he got away.

10:53 AM - Investigators found shell casing had all been picked up and put in a Ziploc bag and left behind. Investigators found knife blades all over the house. They had no handles. Four blades found. Only one knife handle. Investigators tore the house apart and couldn't;t find the handles. The fifth blade was in CJ's head. he shows the x-ray of the knife poking out of a skull.The picture is on the overhead. There is a knife blade in a skull.

Investigators found boards all over the house. Two boards in the bedroom by CeMario. Long 2X4 in the same bedroom where Cecil Dotson II was found on the pillow and his brother was fighting for his life. Board pieces in the bathroom and the toilet.

Investigators swabbed everything. Cut wall out. Cut carpet out. Everything to find some sort of clue as to who did this. All the blood belonged to victims. No one else. Jesse Dotson's fingerprints were in the house. On a beer can. Other fingerprints from others. They collected fibers. Cecil Dotson, Sr. had just started renting the house five months earlier. The house was dirty. The carpet was dirty.

Investigators found two hairs under Sindri Roberson's body. Her pants and underwear were pulled down to her ankles after she was shot. ROberson was seated the loveseat. She had been seated in it. She was drug off of it and onto the floor. the two hairs are unknown. No time, not date, no owner. Forensics did not assist police in this case.

Lepone shows a picture of an FBI model built for investigators in his case. The picture is 2-D, a floor plan of the house. Lepone points out where all the victims were located inside the house. Master bedroom as pristine clean, no activity.

On the big screen, Lepone shows pictures of all the victims. HE starts with Marissa WIlliams, Cecil Dotson's girlfriend, mother of three children. Hollis Seals. Sindri ROberson. Cecil Dotson, 2CeMarion, 4. Cedric Dotson, 5. The picture is from the hospital. Ce'Naya Dotson, 2 months old. Picture from the hospital. CJ Dotson, 9, and Cecil, their father.

Investigators interview friends and family. March 1, 2008. Family gathering at 722 Lester. they were going to watch basketball game at 3 p.m.. Jesse's father was there along with others. They were riding bikes, drinking, hanging out. Jesse's father left 6:30 p.m. on MArch 1, 2008. 9:30 p.m., William Wadell, Jesse and Cecil's brother left the house. Jesse, Cecil left the house in a car. They had been drinking. They went to the mother of Jesse's girlfriend's house. Jesse came by to find Sheila. She was out partying with the girls. Cecil and Jesse left there around 11 p.m.. Willie Hill will testify that he saw Jesse, Cecil, And Hollis at the Barclay apartments at 11:30 p.m.. Hollis had just gotten out of jail. Willie Hill says he was holding Hollis' gun for him. Hollis came an picked up the gun.

1:10 a.m. 2918 Brewere. Stacey Young sees the three men. They left between 1 and 1:30 am.

1:30 a.m. on MArch 2, Kimball Apts. Erica Smith sees the group.

Between 2 and 2:30 am, Jesse got dropped off at 1409 Silver, according to what Jesse tells investigators.

Two different shell casings found at crime scene -- .380 and 9 mm.

All the adults were shot. All the children were beaten and stabbed, not shot. Weapons used: handguns, boards, kitchen knives.

10:38 AM - Lepone: Lawyers are taught to come up with a theme in opening statements. he says there is no theme for this crime. There is no need to grab their attention. Nine victims. The proof, the facts will grab you and will not let you go. Nine victim. Six dead, two of which are a two year old and a four year old.

Three of the victims are still alive. They were critically injured. One of them was a two-month-old.

A doctor from Le Bonheur will testify. The two-month-old had been beaten ad stabbed. her brain was exposed when she got to the hospital.

A five-year-old had been beaten, stabbed, eyes swollen shut.

A nine-year-old. There is no way to describe the condition of this nine-year-old. he came to the hospital with a knife sticking out of his head, embedded in his skull.

Jesse Dotson left 722 Lester in eh early morning hours of MArch 2 on the nine-year-old's bike. he left all that behind. Unfortunately the state has to take the jury inside, Lepone says. The proof will show them bodies everywhere. Blood all over the walls, the bathroom, the ceiling. There will be proof that the blood on the ceiling came from repeated blows to the child from a 2X4.

Officer Randy Davis was one of the first on scene officers. There was many. They received a 911 call. the mother of Cecil Dotson Jr. II, the two-year-old came over. She'd left the baby with the father. She showed up once, but couldn't;t get in touch with anybody. Thought nothing of it at first. Still couldn't;t get anybody. Went back. Felt like nothing was right. Called the police. Officer Davis went into the house, into the tiny living room.

Around the side of the TV he could see a dead male, dead female, dead female slumped over on the couch. Davis knew he had three dead on his hands. The other cops show up. Around the TV, Hollis Seals is laying in the living room, dead. the cops clear the house, make calls over the radio. In the bathroom, covered in blood, a nine year old. they thought he was dead at first. The bedroom, a five-year-old. Though he was dead.

In the corner of that bedroom, on a pillow, a 2-year-old dead. Davis communicates, not four victims, but five, not five, but six, not six, but 7, not 7, but 8.

Davis goes into another bedroom. Another dead kid. FOur-years old.

Ambulances, cops, paramedics arrive. The most experienced homicide investigators didn't know how to start this thing. The investigation began with the crime scene. ID the victims. Interview family and friends. Follow every lead. Lt. Armstrong headed up homicide that night. Secure the scene. Murder, homicide, or suicide. Tony Mullins put in charge of the crime scene. He will testify about the crime scene. How they went about matters.

The proof will show, after the bodies were removed, in that small living room...

Lepone shows a picture of the bloody living room and then a picture of the bloody bedroom. he points out the pillow where the baby was found dead. The final bedroom. Blood on the floor. CeMario's head was there. The bathroom. The tub. That's where CJ was found in the tub with a knife in his head.

10:27 AM - Defense attorney Gerald Skahan tells the jury that Jesse Dotson pleads Not Guilty.

Prosecutor Ray Lepone gets up to offer the state's opening statement.

10:25 AM - Beasley explains the legal definition of 1st degree murder -- Defendant acted intentionally. Killing is pre-meditated. Intent to kill formed prior to the act.

Prosecutor Ray Lepone stands up, welcomes the jury, and reads the nine-count indictment against Jesse Dotson. Count 1, Jesse Dotson intentionally, with pre-meditation, unlawfully killed Cecil Dotson, Sr. between Feb 28-March 4 2008

Count 2, Jesse Dotson intentionally, with pre-meditation, unlawfully killed Marissa Williams between Feb 28-March 4 2008.

Count 3, Jesse Dotson intentionally, with pre-meditation, unlawfully killed Hollis Seals between Feb 28-March 4 2008

Count 4, Jesse Dotson intentionally, with pre-meditation, unlawfully killed Sindri Roberson between Feb 28-March 4 2008

Count 5, Jesse Dotson intentionally, with pre-meditation, unlawfully killed Cecil Dotson Jr. II between Feb 28-March 4, 2008.

Count 6, Jesse Dotson intentionally, with pre-meditation, unlawfully killed CeMario Dotson between Feb 28-March 4 2008.

Count 7, Jesse Dotson unlawfully attempted to commit first degree murder unlawfully, intentionally, with pre-meditation attempted to kill Cedric Dotson between Feb 28-March 4 2008.

Count 8, Jesse Dotson unlawfully attempted to commit first degree murder unlawfully, intentionally, with pre-meditation attempted to kill Ce'Naya Dotson between Feb 28-March 4 2008.

Count 9, Jesse Dotson unlawfully attempted to commit first degree murder unlawfully, intentionally, with pre-meditation attempted to kill Cecil Dotson Jr. between Feb 28-March 4 2008.

10:13 AM - Beasley reads a long set of prepared, but standard jury instructions. He explains that there is a presumption that the defendant is not guilty of any crime. The state must prove that the defendant is guilty. The state has the burden of proof. The defendant doesn't have to prove his innocence.

Dotson shifts in seat. He leans forward for a half-second then settles back into the chair. He is not in chains, shackles, or handcuffs, which is standard. Legally, the jury can't see him dressed in anything that might give them a preconception of his guilt. He is allowed to dress in street clothes like everyone else.

The judge continues to read the jury instructions, including the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Both types can prove facts.

10:05 AM - The judge, James Beasley, goes through a long explanation of courtroom vocabulary and rules of trial. It's a crash course in general court proceedings.

Beasley says he will take breaks every hour-and-a-half because he needs the jury to be alert.

He says he will not have a regular daily docket. Start around 9 a.m. every day. Probably going to quit around 5 p.m. every day. He tells them they will be tired. he says he will try to keep things rolling and not delay matters. However he assures them their will be breaks where they the court will have to deal with matters outside the presence of the jury.

Beasley explains that private bench conferences are so that he can provide legal rules to the lawyers. He says those matters do not concern the jury and if they do, he will let them know.

Beasley says he picked extra alternates for this case. He apologizes to them because the jury box is made for only 14 people. He administers the oath to the jury.

9:55 AM - Court is back in session.

The jury steps into the room and takes a seat in the jury box. The judge welcomes them to Shelby County and thanks them for their service.

You wonder if they have any idea what they're in for. I wonder if any of us have an idea what we're in for.

9:52 AM - The jury is not yet in the courtroom. It is made up of sixteen people bused in from Nashville to serve on this case. Rather than move the trial to Nashville, the judge simply went there to pick a jury and brought them back. I'm told it is far more cost-effective to do things that way than to move an entire three-week trial three hours away.

Before the jury ever gets here, the judge puts court in recess.

 

9:47 AM - Family and friends are inside the courtroom, five on the defense side of the room, four on the prosecution side of the room. The courtroom is far from full. It is not packed tight in here. However, many family members will have to testify at trial and are not allowed inside before they testify. I would imagine it will get more crowded as the weeks progress.

The judge tells the room that he will keep an open door policy during trial. People are allowed to come in and out. however, during opening statements, he will close the door. No one in, no one out during opening statements.

The judge asked. "Are we ready?"

"Yes sir," the prosecution answers.

"Bring in the jury please."

9:40 AM - Security is tight in and around the courtroom.

The judge is swearing in seven deputies for this case.

There is a metal detector and x-ray machine posted outside the door of the courtroom.. Everyone must pass through the metal detector before coming inside.

Jesse Dotson just stepped into the room. He is wearing a cream-colored button-down long sleeve shirt and a pair of brown slacks.

The judge is hearing some arguments about the a state witness. The defense is arguing that the first witness has made two opposing statements and the defense wants the opportunity to impeach that witness.

Defense Attorney Marty McAfee is making the argument. Defense Attorney Gerald Skahan is sitting behind the table and alongside Jesse Dotson.

Apparently, the state witness in quest, ion "the only eyewitness to these events," presumably one of the children.

The judge makes his ruling. The defense accepts it but does not seem pleased.

The judge calls all the lawyers to the bench for a private conference.

9:30 AM - Court is in session. Jessie Dotson is not in the room, but the judge, the bailiffs and the attorneys are.  The gallery is not yet in the room, but family and friends should file in shortly.

8:30AM - Nick Kenney will be blogging from the courtroom as trial opens today.  Court is scheduled to begin around 9:00 a.m.  Be sure to check back for regular updates from the courtroom.

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