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Defense points to unreliable evidence as jury finds man not guilty in 2016 Danville shooting death
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Defense points to unreliable evidence as jury finds man not guilty in 2016 Danville shooting death

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DANVILLE, Va. — A man accused of shooting 47-year-old Mark Anthony Graves to death in 2016 was acquitted Nov. 16 by a Danville jury.

It took the jury nearly three hours to decide that Devin Lamont Womack was not guilty of first-degree degree murder. Jurors also acquitted him on charges of use of a firearm in commission of murder, robbery and use of a firearm in commission of robbery.

The jury’s decision Nov. 16 followed a day-long trial in Danville Circuit Court on Monday.

“You’ve got to respect the jury’s verdict,” Danville Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Newman told the Danville Register & Bee immediately after the decision at around 11:45 a.m. Nov. 16.

“Womack’s very pleased, very excited,” Womack’s Roanoke-based attorney, Dirk Padgett, said during an interview after the verdict.

Padgett pointed to shaky and unreliable evidence as reasons for the jury’s finding.

“The inconsistencies hurt the commonwealth,” he said.

The downfall of the prosecution’s case was the claim that Graves was fatally shot in the living room of the apartment where he died, but his body was found in the kitchen, Padgett said.

During trial on Nov. 15, Newman argued that Womack, accompanied by two other men, Talarico “Paco” Mayo and Tony Mayo, entered an apartment at 1324 Aspen St. and fatally shot and robbed Graves of his money that September morning about five years ago.

Drugs also were taken from Graves’ possession.

But Padgett said during opening statements that any testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses in the case would be unreliable and inconsistent since they frequented the apartment to drink and do drugs.

“It was a crack house,” he said of the home where the shooting occurred.

The evidence in the case will be from a bunch of lying people, Padgett added.

“If they told the truth, their tongues would fall off,” he told the jury.

According to testimony from Christie Cox, a friend of Graves, he was shot twice in the living room of the shotgun-style apartment and dragged by the three men down a narrow hallway and into the kitchen in the back of the unit.

The morning before the shooting, Cox testified she saw Graves at a convenience store where he was buying beer and cigarettes. They both then went to the Aspen Street apartment.

An argument

Several people were at the apartment drinking and doing drugs, Cox said. She saw Talarico “Paco” Mayo, who got into an argument with Graves over cigarettes Graves said had been stolen, Cox testified.

She said Paco told Graves he took the cigarettes and then Paco left after the argument.

Cox and Graves went to the bathroom together and talked, she testified. After they left the bathroom, she saw the three males, including Paco, coming down the hallway. The trio went into a second bedroom and Graves and Cox went into the living room, she testified.

The three men then left the apartment by the front door and came back in.

“They went straight to Mark, shot him twice,” Cox testified.

They took Graves back to the kitchen, she said.

One of the men said, “This is going to be about some money you owe me,” Cox testified.

Womack had gunshot wounds to his right hand and left chest.

She said the shooter had tattoos on his face and neck, the same ones that Womack has, including one on the left side of his face that spells out “Zilla,” the prosecution pointed out.

But the defense said during opening arguments that Cox had been smoking crack that morning and that it was Paco Mayo — who has died since the incident — who shot Graves. In addition, Womack was never in the residence during the time of the shooting, the defense argued.

There is no DNA or fingerprints from Womack in the apartment, Padgett said.

During his testimony, Womack said he and Tony Mayo drove to the residence, where Paco Mayo is standing at the door.

“I’m rolling up a blunt,” Womack said.

Paco Mayo comes up to the car on the passenger side, where Tony Mayo goes to talk to him, Womack testified. They talk about Graves and Paco Mayo heads to the residence, frustrated and mad, Womack said.

Paco Mayo had gone into his car and grabbed a black handgun and went into the house, according to Womack, who testified that he left the scene at that point.

“I took off,” Womack said, adding that he was about 100 feet away from the residence when he heard the gunshots.

Not reliable

The defense argued that Cox is not reliable because she initially refused to show up at the station to talk to police about what happened.

“They contacted you by phone and asked you to show up at the station, and you didn’t show up,” Padgett told her during cross examination.

Also, she did not identify Womack in a lineup, Padgett said. Cox, who had gone to the residence that day with her father, said she was scared for her father and family.

Padgett argued that Cox finally reached out to the commonwealth’s attorney about the incident while she was serving a four-year-and-nine-month sentence and wanted to get her time reduced in exchange for her cooperation.

“Was that the reason you contacted the commonwealth’s attorney?” Padgett asked her, pointing out her past convictions in cases involving “moral turpitude” including “lying, cheating and stealing.”

“Her testimony is completely suspect,” Padgett had said during opening arguments. “There must be 12 different versions of what happened that night.”

He also called the man who lived at the Aspen Street residence, Jackie Toliver, “a drunk.” Padgett seized on Toliver’s testimony, citing statements that were different from what the prosecution argued.

While other witnesses testified they heard two to three shots, Toliver recalled four shots in the living room, five shots in the kitchen and two or three shots in the hallway.

“They came in and shot my friend to death,” Toliver said. He also admitted he had been drinking liquor and smoking crack before the incident.

Earlier plea deal

Tony Wayne Mayo Jr., who had been charged with Womack in connection with the shooting death, struck a plea deal in exchange for agreeing to testify as a witness against Womack.

Mayo was also charged with first-degree murder, but as part of the deal, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, as well as attempted robbery and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

However, Newman told the Register & Bee he chose not to have Mayo testify in Womack’s case because his credibility was questionable. Mayo will serve six years in prison in connection with the case.

During closing arguments in Womack’s trial, Padgett asked, “How come there were no bullet casings found in the living room?”

He also pointed out there was no blood in the living room or the hallway, which called into question whether three men could have dragged Womack back to the kitchen after he’d been shot.

“How could that happen?” Padgett said. “It defies logic, it defies physics.”

Paco Mayo shot Womack in the kitchen, he said. Also, blood on the doorknob in the kitchen in the back of the apartment raised doubts about the perpetrators leaving through the front door, as the prosecution claimed.

As for the bullet casings, they could have been kicked or moved around from the living room by other people walking in the apartment after the shooting, Newman argued. There was a bullet hole above the sofa in the living room, he argued.

Wendy Gibson, forensic scientist with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science in Roanoke, said the bullet casings were from a .40 Smith & Wesson and are most commonly made for a semi-automatic firearm.

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