LAWRENCEVILLE -- Murder suspect Joshua Banks told investigators he was high on marijuana, drunk on Grey Goose vodka and merely messing around with friends when he fired a pal's .40 handgun in the direction of an apartment building two years ago. The next day, he heard that one of those bullets killed a 13-year-old boy -- news that cast him into a months-long depression, according to an interrogation video played Friday in court.
"When I shot (the gun), it jumped and went -- pow, pow, pow," Banks told detectives on tape. "We didn't know nobody got hit. We didn't hear no glass or nothing."
Jurors are tasked now with deciding whether or not a killing that by all accounts was accidental should be considered felony murder -- and if so, on what basis. Seven years earlier, Banks had been convicted of a felony -- forgery and financial transaction card fraud -- which would make even holding a gun another felony. That he was drunk that night should have no bearing, a judge instructed jurors Friday morning, because the law makes no excuses for intoxication.
Banks, 27, of Lawrenceville, was indicted on charges of felony murder and possessing the handgun in the Jan. 18, 2010 death of Tre Shambry. Jurors have been given the option to instead convict Banks on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
A conviction on the lesser charges could mean a sentencing of many fewer decades in prison. Jurors broke for lunch about 12:15 p.m. Deliberations are expected to being this afternoon.
The crime of felony murder doesn't require the intent to kill, only the intent to commit a felony (possessing the gun, in this case) that caused the death, Assistant District Attorney Karen Harris told jurors in closing arguments.
"Some felonies are so inherently dangerous ... it's likely that somebody can die," Harris said.
Harris noted that several witnesses with Banks in the parking lot of Holland Park apartments that night testified that he was the only one who fired a gun. Defense attorney Xavier Dicks tried to cast doubt on that testimony, pointing out that along with .40 caliber shell casings and bullets, police found .22 caliber bullets at the scene.
Harris countered that Dicks' theory that two guns could have been fired is flawed at best, "a red herring" at worst.
In his lengthy closings, Dicks intermittently poked at an iPad and tried to focus jurors on the fact that the only evidence directly linking his client to the bullet that screamed through Shambry's bedroom window is the testimony of other criminals. Banks's confession, Dicks posited, should be questioned, because it mostly occurred off camera after Banks was grilled by professionals who played on his emotions.
"Did he actually give them a confession, or was he coerced -- or bribed, even?" Dicks asked jurors.
Dicks cast hypothetical scenarios that could have put the gun in the hands of others at the scene, who Banks told investigators he'd met at the apartments to discuss "a lick" or burglary they'd just orchestrated. Above all, Dicks stressed that nobody intended to kill a well-liked, intelligent kid like Shambry.
Harris said the bulk of Banks's confession came during a 1 hour and 40 minute smoke break with a detective, about nine months after the shooting. Police had been led to Banks through suspects in other crimes.
"He said he's had trouble sleeping ... He's super sorry," one investigator told another on tape, following the off-camera interview with Banks. "He'd take it back if he could."