Zaevion Dobson murder trial underway in Knox County

Published: Dec. 4, 2017 at 12:05 PM EST
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The murder trial of Zaevion Dobson kicked off Monday in Knox County.

The three men accused of killing 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson in 2015 appeared in the Knox County Criminal Court.

The first day of the murder trial was full of opening statements, evidence, and viewing and hearing recordings. Local 8 News Anchor Donovan Long reports Zaevion's brother Zach and mother Zenobia leaned on each other, listening to the prosecutors and defense present their cases and cross-examine witnesses.

Kipling Colbert faces charges of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and employing a firearm during a dangerous felony. Christopher Bassett faces charges of unlawful possession of a weapon, first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and employing a firearm during a dangerous felony. Richard Williams faces charges of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and employing a firearm during a dangerous felony.

The jury was selected Monday afternoon. The defense and prosecution pooled over 130 potential jurors.

Bassett asked for a change in venue ahead of the first-degree murder trial. He claimed the case was too high-profile to be tried in Knox County.

Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword denied the request.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors with the State of Tennessee presented their opening statements after the jury was seated for the first time Tuesday morning.

State prosecutors took jurors back to the night of December 17, 2015, the night Zaevion was murdered on a porch in Lonsdale.

They played chilling 911 tapes from the shooting and said the Fulton football standout was killed by one bullet while at least 34 shots were fired. The state reported that four guns and 38 bullets were recovered from the scene.

All three men accused of killing Dobson listen and watched to the evidence, though Donovan Long reports he didn't see them show much emotion.

Prosecutors described gang turfs in Knoxville, saying that "Crips" territory is on the west side of I-275, while "Blood" territory is on the east side. They said Lonsdale is in "Crips" territory.

Bullets unleashed from three .40-caliber guns and one 9 mm handgun went flying during the Lonsdale shooting that killed Zaevion, according to prosecutors.

"As a protector, he shielded those girls and in the process he took a bullet. He was facing that gunfire when it happened," the state commented.

Prosecutors argued that officers discovered a handgun matching the ballistics of the murder weapon in a car in which Richard Williams was a passenger. Investigators uncovered text messages from Williams asking Larry North to bring him a bag of his belongings to an apartment on East Hill Avenue. Moments later, shots were fired.

Christopher Bassett's attorney, T. Scott Jones, challenged the state's claim concerning the murder weapon. "I subpoenaed [a woman] who will prove the 9mm police found under Richard Williams' seat in a traffic stop was not the one used to kill Zaevion Dobson. He kept that gun under his seat for protection," Jones insisted.

Defense attorneys for Bassett and Williams defended their involvement in a rap video authorities call gang-related.

"Because of this video, the state of Tennessee is going to try to get you to think they [Bassett,Williams and Colbert] are gang members. They just want to be rappers," Colbert's attorney challenged.

Proceedings will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

15-year-old Zaevion was killed after he threw himself on top of his friends to shield them from gunfire. Investigators reported the shooting was gang-related and the victims were picked at random.

Zaevion's final act gained national attention, including praise from former President Barack Obama and the honor of an Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2016 ESPY Awards.

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