Testimony continues in parking space murder trial

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A Miller County jury heard a second day of testimony Tuesday in the murder trial of a man accused of shooting another man over a parking spot in September at a Texarkana, Ark., gas station.

Marvin Arrell Stanton, 49, allegedly shot Jesse James Hamilton, 22, once in the abdomen after a brief fist fight Sept. 25 in the parking lot of RaceWay on State Line Avenue in Texarkana, Ark. Family members of the two men, who had never met before the shooting, sat on opposite sides of the courtroom during testimony Monday and Tuesday.

In response to questions from Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black, witness Lavon Strong testified that he and Hamilton were in Hamilton’s truck about to leave when he saw four motorcycles pull into the parking lot. Strong said three of the bikes took parking spaces by the store’s front entrance but one, driven by Stanton, pulled up near the truck.

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Strong said he and Hamilton were confused and surprised when they heard Stanton say, “Get out of my f—ing parking space,” several times. Strong said he got out of the truck on the passenger side and Hamilton got out of the driver’s side. Strong said he wasn’t sure if a third man, Sanmarcus Jacobs, who rode with them to the station was in or out of the truck when Stanton confronted them.

Strong said Stanton made a threatening statement and lifted his shirt to expose a holstered handgun. Strong said he wanted to leave but that Hamilton attempted to “diffuse” the situation verbally. Strong said Stanton made mention of his former service in the Marine Corps which caused Hamilton to reply that he too had served in the armed forces and that the two men should, “treat each other with more respect.”
Strong said Stanton shoved Hamilton into his truck. Strong said the two men physically fought and were “hugged up” when a woman “came out of nowhere” and began tugging Hamilton backward by his shirt. Jacobs, who is not expected to testify because he is serving time in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, pulled the woman away from Hamilton, Strong testified. Strong said the separation of the two men gave Stanton the room he needed to pull the pistol and fire a single round into Hamilton’s body less than 10 feet away.

Strong said Hamilton was not moving toward Stanton and that he appeared to “brace himself” when he realized Stanton was going to shoot him. Strong said he was afraid Stanton would shoot him too and that he ducked behind the rear of the truck.

The jury heard testimony Monday that Stanton quickly began to apply pressure to Hamilton’s wound and called for others to help right after Hamilton fell to the ground. Jurors watched surveillance footage which captured the fight without sound from a distant angle. Texarkana, Ark., Detective Jason Haak told the jury Monday the surveillance tape allowed investigators to determine that the fist fight between the two men lasted about 25 seconds. The jury also saw high resolution footage provided by TXK Today of Stanton being led from the scene in handcuffs.

Strong said Stanton did not appear to have suffered any injuries and was “three or four times bigger” than Hamilton and that Stanton could have easily run in several directions but didn’t. Under cross examination by Little Rock lawyer Toney Brasuell, Strong testified that he is on parole for aggravated robbery.

Two of three people who were riding motorcycles with Stanton the night of the shooting testified in response to questions from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Cotten that they were inside the store when the shooting occurred and did not see what happened. Laray Williams said he noticed a scratch on Stanton’s face but no other injury. The woman, Emily Robinson, who rode with Stanton, Williams and Mitchell, and who pulled Hamilton away from Stanton, has not been called to testify.

Texarkana, Ark., Cpl. Shonna Yonts testified she found a bullet in the chamber of Stanton’s .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol and 12 more loaded into a magazine in the gun. Yonts said she also collected a .45 caliber shell casing from the parking lot which Arkansas State Crime Lab Firearms Examiner Kelsey Ellison later testified came from Stanton’s gun.

Witnesses Monday testified a second and third magazine, each loaded with 13 rounds, were taken from Stanton as well. In opening remarks Monday, Brasuell said Stanton is licensed to carry a concealed weapon and to teach concealed weapon classes.

Miller County Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson let the jury leave mid-afternoon because the state’s next witness, an Arkansas medical examiner, was unavailable until Wednesday morning. Once the state has rested its case, the defense may call witnesses to support its claim that Stanton had no choice but to shoot to defend himself.

If found guilty of murder, Stanton faces 10 to 40 or life. He could also receive an additional 15-year term for the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony which would not start until he finished serving any other sentence.

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