Trial for teens accused of killing Austin-East student concluded

The two teens were convicted in the murder of a 16-year-old Austin-East Magnet High School student.
Deondre Davis, 17, and Rashan Jordan, 15,
Deondre Davis, 17, and Rashan Jordan, 15,(JIMS)
Published: Mar. 26, 2023 at 10:47 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 4:13 PM EDT
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Jury convicts two teens accused of killing Austin-East Student

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The trial for Deondre Davis, 18, and Rashan Jordan, 16, is set to begin after the jury was seated on Monday.

The two teens are being tried as adults in the murder of 16-year-old Austin-East Magnet High School student Stanley Freeman Jr. Both teens pled not guilty to the crime, on the basis that the prosecution would not be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they killed Freeman.

Freeman Jr. was shot and killed on Feb. 12, 2021. According to the Knoxville Police Department, Jordan and Davis fired several shots near Tarleton Avenue, one of which struck Freeman Jr. in his car as he was leaving the school. He then crashed his car nearby at another scene and was pronounced dead.

In a hearing on Feb. 25, 2022, Judge Tim Irwin ruled that Jordan and Davis would be tried as adults as the acts were too violent to be tried in juvenile court.

Previous Coverage: 15-year-old to be tried as adult in murder of Austin-East student

Irwin said the murder was planned and organized, describing the alleged murderers as “soldiers on a mission.” Jordan and Davis’ lawyers filed to have the trial postponed, but the judge denied the request.

The two have been charged with first degree murder, felony murder and aggravated child abuse.

Day One

Trial for two teens charged as adults accused of killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr. begins.
The trial continues for two teens charged as adults accused of killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr.

The trial began on Tuesday with opening statements from the state-led prosecution. During those opening statements, the state showed video of Freeman leaving the school and getting in his car. Additionally, the state presented surveillance camera footage from nearby homes.

The state also pointed out that Davis and Jordan were both nearby the crime scenes, according to location pings on their phones.

Additionally, the state said, bullet casings found at the two crime scenes matched guns found at the home Davis and Jordan were staying in at the time. Investigators also said they had found Davis’ and Jordan’s fingerprints on those casings.

After opening statements from the state, the defense made its own opening statements. Davis was represented by Attorney Greg Isaac, while Attorney Hoai Robinette represented Jordan.

The defense brought into question the validity of the evidence in terms of proving, without a doubt, that Jordan and Davis killed Freeman. The defense stated that four sets of fingerprints were found on the weapons and in the car, adding that no witnesses saw Davis and Jordan commit the crime.

Day Two

The trial continues for two teens charged as adults accused of killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr.
The trial continues for two teens charged as adults accused of killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr.

Phil Jinks with the Knoxville Police Department was the first witness to be called to the stand to testify for the second day of the trial.

Officer Jinks with KPD responded to 2055 Washington Ave., where the vehicle, a Nissan Altima, Davis and Jordan was found abandoned. It was a blue Nissan Altima. He had it towed to the forensic unit for further examination.

Officer Jinks assisted in arresting Jordan and Davis. He escorted Jordan to the patrol car, he said. That’s when Jinks said Jordan told him he had a key in his sock. This key ended up being the one that matched the Altima that was already in police custody.

Cross-examination of officer Jinks began with defense attorney Hoai Robinette, who represented Jordan. Jinks testified, saying he did not see the teen boys in the car but he was tasked in finding the blue Nissan Altima.

Jinks said Davis was living in a house on Cathedral Lane, but it is unclear if Jordan lived there as well or who the home belonged to.

In the home where Davis and Jordan were found and arrested, Jinks said there were at least two or three females inside as well.

Judge Steve Sword then sent the jury out because it’s believed a juror may have had inappropriate contact with someone regarding the trial. Davis’s aunt Catina Davis said she saw a juror “mouth something” to someone in the courtroom on the first day of the trial, but she does not know who she was speaking to.

Judge Steve Sword then became upset with the family of the two boys for comments being made when they are not on the stand. He said quote “not another word.”

Brandon Glover, KPD officer and investigator in the Violent Crimes Unit then took the stand the stand.

Glover testified, saying he was in the backyard of another home, close to the one Davis and Jordan was in, when he saw an African American male leaving through the back door of a porch with a weapon. He notified officers who were trying to apprehend the two teens.

Rosa Gonzalez, Crime Scene Technician for the Knoxville Police Department testified after Glover.

Officer Gonzalez showed pictures of Freeman’s clothes that were taken from the crime scene with ‘bullet defects’ covering the shirts and jeans.

Officer Gonzalez also helped examine the Blue Nissan Altima that the two teens are suspected to have been driving, recovering multiple bullet casings found inside the car.

Officer Gonzalez was later questioned about a blue Ford Fusion that was collected for evidence. She collected evidence from inside the vehicle and swabbed the headrest, steering wheel and gear shift for DNA.

Gonzalez was also questioned by defense attorney Hoai Robinette, asking her why officers did not collect DNA swabs in the backseat of the blue Nissan Altima and only collected from the front seat. Also, why most of the evidence was processed four days after the crime occurred.

KPD crime scene investigator Jaclyn Hale is on the stand now. She is a certified latent print examiner. A latent print is an impression of the friction skin of the fingers or palms of the hands that has been transferred to another surface.

Jaclyn Hale KPD crime scene investigator has been marked as an expert witness testifying on the fingerprint examination, she will be allowed to give her opinion on latent prints.

Officer Hale testified saying it is very hard to pull latent prints off of firearms and even harder off bullet casings—because of the texture, heat, and the round surface.

Officer Hale was asked to collect the two defendants’ fingerprints at 1614 cathedral lane. She then took them back to be tested and compared to the fingerprints collected at the crime scenes— Hale said it was a match to Rashan Jordan.

Defense attorney Greg Isaac is questioning officer Jaclyn Hale on why there were not more fingerprints found inside the Blue Nissan Altima that the defendants are suspected to have been driving.

After the cross-examination from Greg Isaac, we know that no fingerprints found inside the blue Nissan Altima matched the defendant Deondre Davis.

Since the two teens are being tried as adults once they were removed from juvenile court, Hale ran the fingerprints through AFIS and it was a match for Jordan not Davis. Only 2 other Austin East High School students’ fingerprints were compared as well.

An official from TBI has taken the stand.

Special Agent Kenna Icet said there were different mixtures of DNA throughout the car, including four different sets of fingerprints on the gun used in the shooting.

Day Three

Day three of the murder trial continues for two teens charged as adults accused of killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr.
Day three of the murder trial continues for two teens charged as adults accused of killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr.

The third day in the trial began with testimony from Knoxville Police Department Sargent Brian Dalton, an expert on firearms. Dalton testified on the stand about the weapons found in connection with the case.

As an expert witness, Dalton was allowed to share his opinion, per Judge Steve Sword. Dalton said that he was there to see where the cartridges could’ve been fired from. After examining the scene, Dalton said the weapons matched the bullets that killed Freeman.

Dalton testified that 11 bullet casings found at the scene matched the guns found at the house the suspects were staying in. He added that social media photos show Davis and Jordan with the guns, which have “unique characteristics.”

After a lunch recess, the trial resumed in the form of an audio recording of a previous Austin-East student’s testimony in juvenile court. In the recording, Jeremy Hines said he saw the defendants and Freeman leave the school in their own cars. He then said he heard gunshots.

Following Hines’ audio testimony, Special Agent Matthew Wild with the FBI took the stand. He spoke on the defendants’ cell phone records as a Cellular Analysis Survey Team (CAST) member. Pointedly, Wild said he was able to track the phones’ locations, but could not guarantee who had the phones on them.

Using that phone data, Wild said he could tell the phones were near where the crime happened at the time of the shooting. During his cross-examination, Wild added that there will always be some overlap with phone data. Davis’ representatives, during the cross-examination, pointed out that there were several businesses in the range of Wild’s location, saying the two suspects could have been at one of those instead.

Shannon Morris took the stand after Wild, explaining how she works for KPD and collected data from the Altima’s entertainment center. That entertainment center stored all the information from the phones as they connected to Bluetooth.

Day Four

Court is back in session Friday morning on day four of the murder trial for two teens being tried as adults in the killing Austin-East student Stanley Freeman.
Returning from a lunch break, the court resumes the trial for two teens being tried as adults in the murder of Austin-East student Stanley Freeman Jr.

The fourth day of the trial and fifth day since jury selection began with testimony and cross-examination from the Knoxville Police Department’s Shannon Morris. The defense focused on how information gathered by Morris, who spoke on the cell phone records of Davis and Jordan, may not be concrete evidence.

Morris was cross-examined by Hoai Robinette, who asked how she knows the phones were inside the Nissan Altima when they connected. Morris said she did not know.

The defense also pointed out that videos of Davis and Jordan in the car also showed two other people who also had weapons on them.

After a brief recess, Knox County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Maxwell Rollins took the stand. Rollins showed pictures from the autopsy and explained his role, saying he examines bodies to determine how they died.

In his testimony, Rollins also explained that pictures showed bullet entry and exit wounds and bruising from the car crash.

During Rollins’ testimony, some of Freeman’s family members left the courtroom to compose themselves.

Following his testimony, Isaacs cross-examined Rollins, first pointing out that Rollins is an assistant medical examiner for Knox County. Moving forward, Isaacs had Rollins confirm that Freeman could have survived after his initial injuries for seconds or minutes, adding that Freeman could have driven after those injuries.

After getting these facts, Isaac’s moved on to the narrative surrounding Freeman’s death, as written in the county’s provisional and final autopsies. Those narratives describe, with input from both medical examiners and KPD investigators, the moments surrounding the death of Freeman.

Isaac’s first asked Rollins if the examiner’s office’s working relationship with KPD investigators could sway their opinion about what happened. Rollins responded, saying that the narrative’s purpose is to bring together information from the office and the police department’s findings.

From there, Isaac’s questioned Rollins on the specifics of the narrative, taking time to get clarification on whether Freeman was shot before or after he was in the car. Ultimately, Rollins was not able to confirm, but did say that his findings indicated that the bullets must have gone through something before hitting Freeman, like a car.

Following this cross-examination, the jury was sent out for lunch. During this break, Defense Attorney Mathis made arguments that the child endangerment charges should be dropped because the defendants did not know a child was in the car.

Robinette asked for all charges to be dropped against Jordan as he claimed that there was no sign of pre-mediated murder or child endangerment. Judge Sword denied the motion, saying the evidence says the suspects could see Freeman and know he was a child.

Early the afternoon of the fourth day of the trial, the court moved to hear closing arguments.

After closing arguments concluded, the jury moved into a deliberation period before returning around 8 p.m. to deliver their verdict.

The jury concluded that both defendants were guilty of all charges, including first degree murder, felony murder, and aggravated child abuse.

The court sentenced the two defendants to life in prison according to Tennessee State Law. They will have a time to review this sentencing on May 18.