DULUTH — Jurors won’t be asked to determine who fatally shot Juamada Keller Anderson Jr., 22, in the city’s Central Hillside nearly two years ago.
Instead, they were told Friday, the case will come down to a legal judgment as to the circumstances under which Patrick Wilson Battees Jr., then 17, undisputedly fired into a crowd, striking one of his closest friends in the head.
“This case is about one shot,” St. Louis County prosecutor Nichole Carter said. “One decision and one shot that ended the life of Juamada Anderson on May 22, 2021.”
While Carter asserted that Battees’ actions amounted to murder, defense attorney J.D. Schmid contended that evidence will show his response was “justified and reasonable” amid a hostile, armed confrontation.
“Mr. Battees is not here today denying that he killed one of his best friends,” Schmid said. “He’s not here to deny that he fired at Mr. (Markus) Morris because he was coming at him with a gun. He’s here because he acted in self-defense.”
Fifteen jurors, including three alternates, heard opening statements and testimony from the trial’s first four witnesses before breaking for the weekend. Testimony will resume Monday, with Judge David Johnson indicating the jury will receive the case by the end of the week.
The central facts of the case are largely undisputed, and were even captured on surveillance video — a preview of which jurors saw during opening statements.
Markus Seville Morris
Battees and Anderson were casually conversing on the front porch of the defendant’s sister’s residence, on the 100 block of East Third Street, when Morris and another man, Laurel Ladd, pulled into a nearby parking lot around 7 p.m. The video shows Morris approaching Battees and demonstrating “pre-attack cues,” with Anderson attempting to step in between them, before Ladd enters and punches Battees.
The scuffle moved toward the street, and Schmid noted that Battees was punched again by a woman. The video then seemingly shows Ladd handing a gun to Morris.
The main area of dispute is how Battees responded. Carter did not directly address the self-defense claim in her opening statement, but suggested to jurors that he had a empty side of the block to flee down, away from the crowd.
“Mr. Battees, however, doesn’t keep walking,” the prosecutor said. “Instead, he shoots and kills Juamada Anderson.”
Schmid seemed to suggest his client had intentions of fleeing, but looked back and saw the gun being passed from Ladd to Morris. He described the crowd as getting “bigger and angrier” and said someone remarked, “You’re lucky we don’t blow you down.”
If he tried to run, the defense attorney argued, Battees “was afraid someone would shoot him in the back.”
Laurel Larice Ladd Jr.
“Mr. Morris was coming at him with a gun, and in that split second, fearing for his life, Mr. Battees fired at Mr. Morris,” Schmid told jurors. “But he missed and instead hit one of his best friends, Juamada Anderson.”
Battees, after firing the single shot, did flee the scene, escaping without serious injury even as four other people reportedly fired shots in his direction. He reportedly stashed the handgun in a discarded couch and was arrested in an alley near the Frances Skinner Apartments, about two blocks from the crime scene.
Carter told jurors that Battees was asked if he was shot at, and he reportedly replied: “I don’t remember. I don’t know.” The prosecutor repeatedly described the shooting scene as “chaotic,” and police body camera footage played in early testimony showed a number of shell casings located across Third Street.
Travis Busch, who was delivering sandwiches that day, was one of several people to call 911. He testified Friday that he was driving down Third Street and nearly ended up in the shooting scene.
Busch described seeing the victim on the ground on the south side of the street. He said he saw a shooter on the north side firing multiple rounds. However, his description of the suspect’s race and attire appeared to suggest he witnessed not Battees, but one of the men who fired in response.
“I slammed on the brakes and ducked down,” Busch recalled. “I waited 5 or 10 seconds until the shooting stopped.”
Battees, now 19, was certified to stand trial as an adult in October, and subsequently demanded a speedy trial. He is charged with intentional second-degree murder and reckless discharge of a firearm within a municipality.