URBANA — Artez Winston said he was "very" certain that Martreail Patton was the man who shot him in the chest last fall in a dispute over being shortchanged $2 in a cannabis sale.
"Never forget that face," said the 20-year-old Winston of Rantoul.
Winston was the first witness to testify against Patton, 19, of Danville, who is being tried by a Champaign County jury this week on one count of aggravated battery with a firearm. If convicted, he faces six to 30 years in prison.
Patton is accused of having shot Winston as Winston stood in the doorway to a room at the Rantoul Motel, 301 N. Century Blvd., on the evening of Oct. 18. Winston ended up losing a kidney and having his liver cut by the gunshot. He was hospitalized for a week.
Patton had also been charged with shooting Winston's brother, Alandize Winston, 26, of Rantoul, in the same incident, but the older Winston refused to cooperate with Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Weber and she was forced to dismiss the second count.
Weber was a bit nervous about her case on the remaining count Tuesday when Artez Winston, who had been working with her as she prepared for trial, did not show up at the courthouse when he was supposed to. A jury had been picked on Monday and testimony was supposed to begin before Judge Tom Difanis Tuesday morning.
When Winston didn't appear, Difanis sent the jury home for the day, explaining only that there had been a scheduling problem with a witness, and told them to be back Wednesday morning. He then issued a warrant for Winston's arrest for disobeying a court order.
Dale Rawdin, investigator for the state's attorney's office, and Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet located Winston later Tuesday morning at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. He was there visiting his girlfriend who had suffered a seizure the night before, Weber said. He spent the night in jail before testifying Wednesday.
Under questioning by Weber, Winston explained that he had gone to the motel about 3 p.m. that day with his brother and his brother's girlfriend to party. They started drinking cognac shortly before 4 p.m., he said.
It was around 6 p.m. when his brother met other men in the parking lot who wanted to buy cannabis. Winston said there was cannabis in their room and his brother gave one of the men $10 worth but received only $8 in payment.
The shortchanging, fueled by the alcohol, Winston admitted, led to an argument between the Winstons and the other two men. Winston said he had never seen them before that day.
He described them as a taller, light-skinned black man and a shorter, dark-skinned black man.
Winston said the arguing continued in the doorway to the room that the other men had rented. Winston said he was holding the door open, with his brother slightly behind him, arguing with the taller man when he saw the shorter man come from the bathroom and take something from his waistband.
"The next thing I saw was black dots in front of my eyes. I heard one pow and felt a tight pain in my stomach — the worst I ever felt," Winston said.
Unaware of what had happened to his brother, Winston said he fell on a car in the parking lot.
"I got back to my room somehow," he said. The next thing he knew, a police officer was entering with a long gun. Winston recalled that his hand was bloody from holding his wound.
Weber had Winston show the jury the entrance wound just below his sternum, the exit wound in his back, and the scars from the surgery to repair his torn liver and remove his right kidney.
Asked if he saw the shooter in the courtroom, Winston pointed to Patton and said he was "very" confident Patton was the man who had shot him.
On cross-examination by defense attorney Dan Jackson, Winston denied that the room was dark that fall night.
He said the taller man disappeared behind the door to the motel room when the shot was fired. Asked if the shorter man was doing or saying anything prior to the shooting, Winston replied: "He was cold, like he is now."
Rantoul police officer James Barnett testified he found both wounded Winston brothers on the floor of a room a few doors down from where the shooting occurred. Barnett said Alandize Winston gave his name but no other information about what had happened. Barnett said he could see that the older Winston had been shot in the left hip and the right side of the neck.
Artez Winston said his brother hasn't discussed the shootings with him.
In his opening statement to the jury, Jackson said Patton was at the motel that night with friends and cousins.
Jackson said the evidence would show that Artez Winston was "drunker than drunk" the night of the shooting and that the other man in the room with his client was the one who fired the shot that hit Winston.
"There's reasonable doubt all over this case," said the Champaign attorney.
Weber urged the jurors to listen carefully to the witnesses.
"Artez saw who shot him and who didn't shoot him," she said.