‘Breakdown’ S06, Ep. 3: A trial by jury

Nicholas Benton, accused of a double-murder during a drug deal gone bad, appears at a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court. (BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM)

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Nicholas Benton, accused of a double-murder during a drug deal gone bad, appears at a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court. (BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM)

The jury heard testimony from 25 prosecution witnesses in the double murder trial of Nicholas Benton. But the “testimony” from cellphone records was perhaps the most damning.

Benton and his friend, Quincy “Fat” Wytche, had been arranging a big marijuana deal with another man that spring night in 2016, police said. The authorities had found records of 27 calls among Wytche, Benton and the would-be buyer, Reginald Coicou, in the hours before the killings.

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Police also recovered a two-word text from Wytche to his friend, Benton, 10 minutes before the shootings.

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The third episode of the AJC podcast, “Breakdown: A Jury of His Peers,” details the trial of Nick Benton, from the perspective of the 12 jurors who would decide his fate. AJC Editor Kevin Riley was one of the 12. The new episode went live early Monday.

Reggie Coicou and the man driving him, Carlton Redding, had met briefly with Fat Wytche at a Valero gas station near I-285 in northwest Atlanta. Then Wytche had texted Benton: “One strap.”

“Strap” is slang for “gun.”

Excerpts of surveillance videos used in the trial of Nicholas Benton. (Ryon Horne/AJC)

Ten minutes later, Wytche and his companion — the state said it was Benton — and Coicou and Redding met in the parking lot of the Burger King across the road from the Valero. Wytche and his companion climbed into the back seat of Redding’s Pontiac.

This image shows the assumed trajectory of the bullet that passed through the back seat of the Pontiac Bonneville and into the car's trunk. (Atlanta Police Department)

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

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Credit: Atlanta Police Department

But this was no drug deal. The man behind Coicou announced that it was a robbery, and the shooting erupted almost immediately.

Coicou was dead in the front seat, shot six times. Wytche had made it a few steps from the Pontiac and then collapsed. He died within minutes.

The scene was as mystifying as it was bloody. The bullets that killed Coicou apparently came from the same gun as the bullets that killed Wytche. If Benton was indeed the man who shot Coicou, why did he also kill his own friend, Wytche?

The Burger King surveillance video caught Carlton Redding running from his car just after the  shooting started. The camera then captured a car, believed to have been the shooter's, pulling away from the Burger King. Then the  camera captured Redding again — but this time he was running back to his Pontiac.  Then it recorded him running away again. Then it recorded him running back to the car again. And then he ran away a third time, heading out, on foot, onto I-285 north.

You can download Episode 3, narrated by Riley and legal affairs writer Bill Rankin, on iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcasting platform. Or you can stream it right here, right now.

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