Jury Deliberations Begin in Murder Trial Against James Fells

Jurors in the murder trial of James Fells heard closing arguments in the case Tuesday morning.

Fells, 28, is charged with first-degree murder and several assault and firearms charges in connection with the 2011 shooting death of 28-year-old Christopher Freeman.

When presenting the government’s case at trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Bradford argued that Fells and Freeman at one point dated the same woman, and that tension between the two had been building for months.

Fells’ defense attorney’s argued that the government failed to show evidence of that relationship, and that the government had been duped into accepting a false story from the man who really committed the murder: Markell Gordon.

“Markell Gordon has not been honest about what happened,” Fells’ defense attorney Kia Sears said Tuesday.

At trial, Markell Gordon testified that in the early morning hours of Aug. 5, 2011, he and Freemen were talking in an alley off 34th Street Southeast when Fells approached them, pulled a gun from his waistband, and asked Gordon to identify himself. Fells then put the gun back in his waistband, Gordon told the court.

Gordon said that the three men stood talking in the alley for about ten minutes, and then Fells walked off. Minutes later, Fells returned to the alley, this time talking on his cell phone. According to Gordon, Fells walked past them, stopped, turned around, and then shot at them.

Gordon was struck in the left side of his face, the left shoulder and his right hand. Freeman suffered 11 gunshot wounds to his head and upper body; seven 9mm shell casings were found scattered around his body.

“The defendant was standing almost over Christopher Freeman as he was firing,” Michelle Bradford told the jury. “And he fired those 11 shots into his body to make a statement.”

Police also found an empty sawed-off shotgun hidden in the bushes 15 feet from Freeman’s body; no shotgun shells were recovered.

Police never found the weapon used to murder Freeman.

Gordon testified that when he was admitted into the hospital he used his brother’s name because he was in violation of parole and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Police questioned Gordon about the incident while he was in the hospital with his mouth wired shut. When detectives asked Gordon who shot him and Freeman, he wrote, “Jim,” referring to Fells. Gordon later identified Fells from a photograph lineup.

Jason Zencka, a former investigator with the D.C. Public Defender Service, testified that when he interviewed Gordon about the shooting, Gordon told him that Fells had not shot him, and that he did not know who the shooter was. Zencka said that Gordon told him that he was “drugged up and scared” the night of the shooting and that the story he told police was false.

Fells’ defense attorneys argued at trial that because Gordon lied to hospital staff and gave conflicting accounts of the shooting, he could not be trusted.

“There are a number of scenarios that make more sense than what Mr. Gordon has told you,” Sears said to the jury.

Jury deliberations began approximately at noon Tuesday.

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