LAWRENCEVILLE — Darrez Chandler has a bad memory. He admitted as much on the witness stand Friday, pointing to a long history of smoking pot.
“I told you I’m not good with dates,” he said. “I said that the first time I came up here.”
Chandler — an alleged planner, lookout and driver in the Feb. 2, 2012, robbery that ended with the murder of 15-year-old Nick Jackson II — testified against two of his co-defendants Friday in Gwinnett County Superior Court. That testimony was at times confused and at odds with his own previous statements, as well as those from fellow plea-entering co-conspirator Timothy Johnson.
The attorneys for defendants Anthony Lumpkin and Eddie Green made sure the jury was aware.
Chandler gave differing numbers of times he and various other co-defendants had scoped out the Jackson home on Norcross’ Autry Street, a target because of the drug trafficking of Nick Jackson I. He also told Assistant District Attorney Mike Morrison that he wasn’t sure if he called Johnson, a childhood friend, on the day of the crime or the other way around.
Under cross-examination, though, Chandler said he, Johnson and Jason Dozier were on a three-way call that morning. Questioned, he played coy.
“I’ve been sitting and I’ve been thinking,” he said.
After first giving only a rough date for an alleged December 2011 incident in which he and several other men planned on robbing the Jackson home, eventually calling it off, Chandler later said it was Dec. 13.
“I don’t remember that specific date,” he said when confronted with the change. “It was in December, but I also got a discovery packet.”
Discovery packets outline the prosecution’s case.
Like their five co-defendants, both Chandler and Johnson were originally charged with four counts of murder. Neither man is believed to have participated in the actual home invasion or fired shots, but drove vehicles and helped plan the crimes.
They’ve both entered guilty pleas to lesser charges and will likely receive sentences of 15 years in exchange for their testimony.
Johnson testified Friday that Lumpkin was gung-ho about the robbery, kicking the door in and forcing the crew to return to the scene after they didn’t come away with any cash. Johnson said Lumpkin, known as “Ant,” confessed to killing the teenager, who was barricading the door to his basement bedroom.
“Ant said, ‘There was this young (n-word) in there, man, and he was bucking,’” Johnson said. “I said, ‘You didn’t shoot him did you?’”
“He said, ‘Yeah, he looked like he was (messed) up.’”
Johnson also said that it was Chandler’s idea to do the robbery when someone was at the Jackson’s house, just outside downtown Norcross.
“Chandler felt like it would be better to do it while someone was home,” Johnson said, “because if someone was home the alarm wouldn’t be activated and it would give us more time to search.”
In his own testimony, though, Chandler said the plan was to make sure nobody was home, and that he had hesitated when they realized people — Jackson II and his older sister — were inside.
Chandler also told the court that he was on the phone with Lumpkin during the entire crime. From his Pontiac Grand Am, he reportedly heard the door being kicked in and the ensuing gunshots.
The phone call, Chandler said, was the result of Lumpkin’s distrust of Timothy Johnson. Lumpkin reportedly wanted his “play cousin” — not a blood relative but a close friend dating back to childhood days — on the line to give him a heads up if police were coming. He didn’t want to be left behind.
The same man testifying against Lumpkin Friday had been his safety net.
“He trusted his play cousin?” Wesley Person, Lumpkin’s attorney, asked.
Chandler paused briefly before answering.