The jury in the William Woodard death penalty trial is expected to begin deliberating by week’s end, with closing arguments expected Thursday.
The week began with Woodard, 34, testifying that he acted in self-defense when he shot two off-duty DeKalb County police officers moonlighting at an apartment complex.
“DeKalb County will shoot you first and ask questions later,” said Woodard, who has a history of drug arrests and convictions. He testified that officers Eric Barker and Ricky Bryant were “jumping and beating me” before firing shots that missed.
Prosecutors will argue that it was Woodard who shot first on Jan. 16, 2008, before fleeing Victory Crossing apartments only to return to finish off the officers. He and Herbie Durham were pulled over after the officers said they smelled marijuana coming from a car driven Durham.
Durham testified Woodard would not hand over his license, prompting Bryant to pull him from the car. Durham said he then heard about eight shots. Once the shooting stopped, he said, he got out of the car and saw the officers on the ground.
“One of them I knew wasn’t going to make it, but the one I thought was Barker I hoped he would,” Durham said.
Several other witnesses testified that Woodard was the aggressor. DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James asked Woodard how he managed to avoid the bullets he alleged were fired by the two officers.
“I guess by the grace of God,” Woodard said.
Defense attorney Dwight Thomas portrayed his client as the victim, telling jurors that Woodard was devastated by the shooting.
“The officers offered him no choice,” Thomas said.