In closing arguments Friday, a Forsyth County prosecutor told jurors that William Anthony Brown not only murdered a Winston-Salem man in front of his girlfriend last year but that Brown also, while awaiting trial in the Forsyth County Jail, tried to arrange for the woman to be killed to prevent her from testifying.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding said the “plain language of the letters” written by Brown and intercepted by Forsyth County jail officials showed that Brown was trying desperately to put a hit on the girlfriend. In many of those letters, Brown said that if the girlfriend didn’t come to court, prosecutors would be forced to dismiss the murder charge and he could sue the City of Winston-Salem for millions of dollars on allegations of wrongful prosecution.
Despite those alleged threats to her life, the girlfriend testified, Breeding said.
Brown, 29, of Greensboro, has been on trial in Forsyth Superior Court on one count of first-degree murder in the death of Jahmil Ismail Al-Amin on March 10, 2017. Winston-Salem police officers responded to 703 Bethabara Pointe Circle at 9:43 that night and found Al-Amin lying in the parking lot of the apartment complex with gunshot wounds. Kayuana Talley was beside him, according to testimony.
Talley, Al-Amin’s girlfriend who gave birth to the couple’s daughter months after Al-Amin died, testified last week that she was sitting on the arm of a sofa in the apartment and looking out the apartment’s window when she saw Brown, whom she only knew as Skeme, pull out a gun and fire eight times. Al-Amin was hit multiple times, with bullets going through his heart, lungs and bowels. Breeding said Brown shot Al-Amin in the leg while he was on the ground.
On the stand Thursday, Brown denied repeatedly that he killed Al-Amin and said prosecutors were misinterpreting his jail letters. He said he never tried to put a hit out on Talley. But Breeding said the letters are clear in their intent. One letter is written to a Ray Inge Jr., purported to be a lawyer in Danville, Va. Brown wrote “legal paper” on the envelope so that jail officials wouldn’t open it if they believed the letter contained information protected by attorney-client privilege. But there is no record of a Ray Inge Jr. who is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and Virginia, according to testimony.
And in the letter to Inge, Breeding said, Brown claimed Talley’s testimony was the only evidence prosecutors had against him and that he could not afford to have her testify. In that same letter, Brown told someone he called Henry that if he needs a “lighter,” he should contact a person named Kane. He also wrote, Breeding said in closing arguments, that Talley’s house was not being watched and “They are living normally without a care in the world.”
Jason Crump, Brown’s attorney, said Forsyth County prosecutors, who also include Assistant District Attorney Morgan Reece, failed to prove that Brown was the shooter. Talley, in fact, gave plenty of inconsistent statements to police, Crump argued.
When asked by the 911 dispatcher who shot Al-Amin, Talley said she didn’t know, Crump said. Crump also said that Talley expressed less certainty about the shooter’s identity on phone calls she made to her mother while she was at the Winston-Salem Police Department. She was in a police interview room and she was recorded.
If Talley expressed uncertainty about Brown being the shooter, then the jury should have that same uncertainty, he argued.
Crump said Brown has made some horrible life choices. Breeding and Crump agreed that Brown is a smart man. But Crump said even after Brown served time in prison for assault, he still sold marijuana and was a gang member who admitted to robbing people. And that was despite his having a job and having a family with his girlfriend, Crump said.
But Brown’s life choices have little to do with whether he is guilty of murder.
“Just because he made some mistakes in his life choices does not mean he killed Jahmil Al-Amin,” Crump said.
The jury deliberated for about two hours and 20 minutes Friday afternoon and will continue deliberations Monday morning.