Two men gunned down outside a West Ashley McDonald's in January were set up when they went to sell tabs of the street drug Ecstasy, a prosecutor said during opening statements for a double-murder trial on Monday.
The shooting near Sam Rittenberg Boulevard and Orange Grove Road killed 20-year-olds Kareem Shakoor of North Charleston and Trident Technical College student Channing Walker.
The first of four men to go to trial, 21-year-old Jabez Batiste, sat quietly in the defendant's chair as opening statements commenced about 3:30 p.m.
"On Jan. 4, 2007, Jabez Batiste was a man with a plan," 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Nathan Williams said.
"His plan was to set up a drug deal."
Batiste is charged with two counts of murder and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. One of his defense attorneys, Bently Price, said during opening statements that the prosecutor's evidence would not prove that his client committed murder.
"I'm going to be brief because I don't have to prove a thing," Price said.
He maintained that the jury of five men and seven women would hear from people "hanging out with drug dealers." He asked them to consider why these people were testifying, what they would gain and, ultimately, what evidence the state has against his client.
The remarks came after the prosecutor outlined what investigators think happened: Batiste borrowed his girlfriend's Buick sedan and contacted Shakoor about picking up some Ecstasy.
The three other men were in the car: Quentin Rolf Jenkins, 19; Travis Delaney Simmons, 18; and Bernard Eric Green, 19. Simmons drove.
The four arrived together at McDonald's about 8 p.m. Batiste and Jenkins approached the Honda Civic occupied by Shakoor and Walker, while Green and Simmons stayed inside the Buick.
Shakoor wound up being shot at least four times, hit in the back while trying to run away, Williams said.
Walker ran over to the front of the car and was hit three times. Both died at the scene.
All defendants originally were charged with murder, though the charges against Green were dropped during a preliminary hearing. In his opening, the prosecutor described Simmons and Green as "accessories to murder."
Williams said physical evidence, including a gold chain stolen from Shakoor and eight shell casings collected at the scene, would help prove the case. He did not say who authorities think fired the gun.
"If you do something illegal, it doesn't matter who pulled the trigger," Williams said. "The hand of one is the hand of all."
The first three witnesses to testify claimed to have seen portions of the shooting from across nearby streets, though none got a clear look at the shooter. Testimony was expected to resume this morning and is likely to continue until late Wednesday or early Thursday, Tenth Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr. told the jury.