URBANA — Champaign County prosecutors are expected to wrap their case against accused murderer Cory Jackson early Thursday following a mind-boggling day of conflicting testimony Wednesday.
Four women who were at a house party where Martez Taylor, 27, was fatally shot while in a car in the driveway gave different versions of what they saw on July 20 and 21, 2018, and further, what they told police they saw in the days and months that followed.
On Tuesday, Malaia Turner of Champaign, a cousin to Mr. Taylor, testified that she saw Jackson, 32, of Urbana, hand a gun to Keith Campbell, 28, that Campbell then used to fire multiple shots at Mr. Taylor.
That happened in her car, which she had parked in the driveway of the townhome in the 1900 block of East Florida Avenue, Urbana. It was on the heels of a physical fight inside the home between Campbell and Mr. Taylor, in which Mr. Taylor had the upper hand.
Jackson is charged with murder under the theory that he is accountable for Campbell’s actions. Campbell, who was also charged with first-degree murder, has been at large since the morning of the party.
On Wednesday, the state called in the following order:
— Alisha Turner, sister to Malaia Turner and also a cousin to Mr. Taylor, who testified that she, too, saw Jackson hand the gun to Campbell, also known as “Nani G.,” who shot her cousin several times.
“It was a lot of commotion. Cory passed the gun to Nani G., and Nani G. fired about four shots right into the window of the car, right into the door. I was at the end of the car,” she said, adding she saw Jackson and Campbell run away after that.
Alisha Turner admitted it was not until about a week ago that she revealed what she had seen in July 2018 to Urbana police, saying she feared for her life if she came forward to help.
She said she was afraid of Campbell’s older brother, Keontae Campbell, 32, of Urbana, who had allegedly told Malaia Turner that by cooperating with police, “she was making herself a target,” which she interpreted as a threat.
It wasn’t until after Keontae Campbell was arrested Sept. 16 on gun and drug charges that Alisha Turner said she felt comfortable enough to go to police with her statement.
Keontae Campbell remains in the county jail in lieu of $500,780 bond and is due back in court next month.
She also said she had seen Jackson before at clubs, parties and on social media and knew who he was. An animated Jackson shook his head no during that portion of her testimony. She denied that her sister had coached her on what to say in court but conceded that the two had talked about what happened multiple times.
— Wendy Driver of Champaign, who described herself as Alisha Turner’s best friend and a former lover of Mr. Taylor, said she was inside with Mr. Taylor in the kitchen when he bumped Campbell and apologized, then got into a scuffle with him.
Driver said she got out of the kitchen and went to the driveway looking for Alisha and Malaia Turner to alert them.
“I’m looking at my phone (for Alisha’s number), but I’m nervous because there was just a fight, so I’m not focused. It’s 2019. Most fights end in gun violence,” she said.
Driver testified that about three minutes passed between the scuffle and when she saw two men — whom she could not identify — by the side of Malaia Turner’s car and heard three shots. She then saw the two men leave.
She went to the car, where someone had opened a door.
“K.T. (Mr. Taylor’s nickname) was hanging out. He was breathing really shallow. I didn’t see any blood. I’m holding K.T. Eventually, I could see blood on his shoulder. The more they moved him, the more he bled,” she said of people transferring him to another car to take him to the hospital.
After the transfer, Driver said she headed to her car.
“As I walked to my car, Alisha was walking toward me asking what was going on, indicating she hadn’t seen the shooting or the fight,” Driver testified.
Driver said she never saw any interaction between Mr. Taylor and Jackson that night, nor did she see Jackson have a gun or pass a gun to anyone. Driver also said no one pressured her to testify or to lie.
— Yasmine Nichols of Champaign, who was arrested and threatened with contempt proceedings to testify, said she left the house with Mr. Taylor after the fight, heard a commotion, then heard shots fired. She denied that she saw Campbell or Jackson with a gun.
However, she admitted she told police three days after the fatal shooting that Jackson had handed the gun to Campbell, who fired.
“I went back and told (Urbana police Sgt. Matt) Bain that was a lie because a person asked me to say that,” she said, adding she didn’t really know Jackson but “fabricated” the initial statement to police at the request of Allen Williams, a relative of Mr. Taylor and the Turner sisters.
— Shakeyla McCoy of Chicago, sister to Yasmine Nichols, testified that she saw Jackson at the party but recognized him only through her Snapchat account, and said she didn’t know Campbell.
McCoy also had to be arrested on a contempt petition to testify since she didn’t respond to her subpoena to do so.
McCoy said she saw the fight between Campbell and Mr. Taylor in the kitchen, which Campbell appeared to have initiated. She testified she told Urbana police on July 24, 2018, that Jackson handed a gun to Campbell, who fired into the car. But on Wednesday, she said: “That story was fabricated.”
“I was told to tell police that so that somebody can be convicted of a murder,” she testified, later saying it was Allen Williams, Mr. Taylor’s cousin, who told her to say that.
She also said she and her sister made a Facebook Live post about six weeks after the fatal shooting in which they urged that Jackson be freed.
She was arrested shortly after that on charges of domestic battery and crossed paths in jail with Jackson, who urged her to write an affidavit recanting what she initially told police.
Defense attorney Steve Sarm of Champaign is expected to begin his case Thursday morning.
Several relatives and supporters of both Jackson and Mr. Taylor have been watching the trial this week in Judge Heidi Ladd’s courtroom. They have been repeatedly warned by court security officers and the judge to remain quiet throughout the testimony and show no reaction. Only one person has been asked to step out for inappropriately laughing at a witness’s testimony.