The murder trial is to begin Tuesday for William Maurice Woodard, accused of shooting and killing two DeKalb County police officers in 2008.
A jury was seated early Monday afternoon, and DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Daniel Coursey heard final motions, including a request to admit testimony that one of the slain officers had a history of violent behavior.
Officers Eric Barker and Ricky Bryant were shot to death the night of Jan. 16, 2008, as they attempted to arrest Woodard and two other men in the parking lot of the Glenwood Gardens apartments.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Woodard, 34, has pleaded not guilty, claiming one of the officers first shot at him and he withdrew his own gun and fired upon them in self-defense.
Monday, Woodard’s attorney Dwight Thomas asked Coursey to allow a last-minute addition to the defense’s witness list.
Yanita Payne, the girlfriend of a witness already set to testify in the trial claiming that Barker was an overzealous cop, was brought on the stand to corroborate that accusation and to describe her encounters with Barker.
“He came into my house, and he and another officer had their guns drawn,” Payne said to the court before the jury was brought in. “He pointed his gun at me and told me to get on the ground.”
She said she was watching TV with her nephew in a back room of the apartment she shared with defense witness Derrick Murchison and heard the officers enter after Murchison walked out of the apartment.
According to testimony previously given in pretrial hearings, Barker and Bryant stopped Woodard and state’s witness Mario Westbrook after Barker smelled marijuana.
Before making that stop, however, Barker questioned Murchison and entered his apartment.
Payne told the court Barker said he heard a woman scream from the back of the apartment. She told him no one was screaming, and told him to “get out,” Payne testified.
DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James asked her to describe the apartment complex where she lived, and Payne noted that it was a violent neighborhood, rife with drug activity and daily gunfire.
Don Geary , assistant district attorney, followed up by pointing out that Barker left after assuring that there was no trouble in the apartment.
“He asked if everyone was alright, and when he was asked to leave, he left,” Geary said. “He was doing his job.”
But Thomas characterized that encounters as a felonious act of violence.
“If anyone else had entered a home like that, it would be aggravated assault,” Thomas said. “If an officer is not doing his job properly, he is not doing his job.”
Coursey said he will consider admitting Payne’s testimony. Opening statements are set to begin in his courtroom at 9 a.m. Tuesday.