URBANA — A Champaign woman who saw her cousin shot inside her car said Cory Jackson handed the gun to Martez Taylor’s alleged killer more than a year ago.
On the stand for almost 90 minutes Tuesday, a stoic Malaia Turner of Champaign said that if Jackson had not given that gun to Keith Campbell on the early morning of July 21, 2018, then Mr. Taylor might still be alive.
Jackson, 32, who listed an address in the 1100 block of Austin Lane, Urbana, is being tried for first-degree murder by a jury before Judge Heidi Ladd this week. Testimony began late Tuesday morning and is expected to continue much of the week.
Campbell, 28, is also charged with first-degree murder but has never been found.
Assistant State’s Attorney Bridget Schott said it was an irritated Campbell, accompanied by Jackson, who approached a car that Mr. Taylor, 27, was sitting in on July 21, 2018, outside a townhome in the 1900 block of East Florida Avenue in Urbana and fired five times into the back seat, killing Mr. Taylor.
“He died from winning a fight at the hands of a sore loser and that sore loser’s friend,” Schott said.
The shooting came after Mr. Taylor got the better of Campbell during a fist fight at a house party.
Campbell and Mr. Taylor, Schott said, were among dozens of people inside and outside the crowded townhome at a birthday party when Mr. Taylor reportedly bumped Campbell, also known as “Nani G.”
That sparked an exchange of words that escalated into Campbell throwing a punch. Mr. Taylor, an accomplished football player, responded and put Campbell on the floor in front of a crowd, including Jackson.
Schott said Mr. Taylor then got “hustled out the front door” to wait for a ride in the car of Turner, his cousin who had brought him to the party. It was parked in the driveway near the street.
Turner testified she came out of the house a couple minutes after Mr. Taylor in time to see a “tug of war” between him and Campbell, who was pulling on the back seat driver’s door.
Jackson was to the right of Campbell outside the car while Mr. Taylor was in the back seat on the driver’s side, Turner said.
“I seen him (Jackson) pass Nani the gun. It was big. He (Campbell) shot Martez,” she said. “I heard three or four shots, one right after another. After he shot him, I just stared at Martez. He stopped moving. They ran — Cory, Nani and whoever else they was with.”
Turner said she couldn’t find her car keys, so people scooped Mr. Taylor out of her car and into another, rushing him to Carle Foundation Hospital, where he died a short time later.
At the hospital, Turner said she told police in an initial interview only about Jackson’s role in the killing.
“I told them I saw who killed my cousin. I told them Cory. I wanted Cory to get in trouble because he gave him (Campbell) the gun,” she said, adding she knew him before the shooting and bore no ill will toward him prior to him handing the gun to Campbell.
It wasn’t until September 2019, Turner admitted, that she recanted what she had said about Jackson being the lone shooter and added that Campbell had fired the shots with the gun Jackson passed to him.
She told police that there might be other witnesses to corroborate that but that she was unwilling to supply their names to detectives.
“That’s something they should do on their own,” she said of the other witnesses’ willingness to testify.
In other testimony Tuesday, December Melville, a crime-scene technician for the Illinois State Police, said she found five bullet holes in Turner’s car — four went through the rear passenger window on the driver’s side, while a fifth went through the frame at the base of that window just beneath the other four. Melville said she recovered one slug that was embedded in the rear seat.
Jackson is represented by Champaign attorney Steve Sarm, who in opening statements accused Urbana police of “gross mishandling of evidence” and urged jurors to pay attention to the “ever-changing testimony” of a few witnesses.
Both the prosecution and the defense listed more than 20 potential witnesses for their respective cases. Other witnesses to the shooting are expected to be first up Wednesday for the prosecution.