In his closing argument Wednesday, defense attorney Christian Dysart asked jurors to remember what Rodney Burrell said when shown a picture of Brandon “B-Easy” Mangum, the man on trial for killing his son.
“That ain’t him.”
In his last remarks, attorney Mark Edwards reminded the same jury that one of the witnesses who testified against accused Bloods leader Demetrice “Respect” Devine had an on-off relationship with him, and had put a gun to his head after contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
“What better revenge,” he asked, “than to assist the government?”
All testimony and arguments have wrapped up in the seven-day trial against Devine and Mangum, who are facing murder and conspiracy charges in federal court. Once U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III gives his instructions, their fate rests with the jury.
As closing arguments began Wednesday, assistant U.S. Attorney Dena King walked jurors through the seven-count indictment, explaining that both Devine and Mangum were part of the Bloods-affiliated Black Mob Gangstas in Southeast Raleigh, an organization that trafficked in drugs, assaults, witness tampering and murder.
Cash, drugs and guns
As its leader, Devine wore the gang’s signature tattoos and appeared in videos flashing cash, drugs and guns, “stacking” Bloods hand symbols. Mangum appears wearing the gang’s red shirt and bandanna. King said Devine ordered the murder of 16-year-old Adarius Fowler, the “scooby” or underling of a rival gang member, while Mangum assisted in the shooting death of Rodriguez “Re-Up” Burrell, who declined to pay gang dues.
“What sounds like a Hollywood TV show is what actually took place,” she said. “Nobody was alarmed, but everybody was afraid. Everybody was afraid to talk.”
Edwards countered that most of the government’s witnesses were part of gangs themselves and said they cooperated to get sentences reduced, charges eliminated or payback.
Dysart called the government’s case “smoke” meant to distract jurors from the lack of evidence against his client, who is accused only in Burrell’s murder. While the defense concedes Mangum belonged to the gang, attorneys stressed that gang membership on its own is not illegal.
Burrell’s father testified last week that he and his son both sold drugs from the family porch in the Haywood Street neighborhood where BMG operated, and his son “Re-Up” belonged to another Bloods set and objected to paying dues. But in testimony to the grand jury, the father did not select Mangum’s photo.
“’That ain’t him,’” Dysart repeated to jurors. “I need you to have those words ringing in your head. ... This isn’t reasonable doubt. This is he didn’t do it.”
During the trial, two witnesses for the government said another witness identified Mangum as part of a group dispatched to kill Burrell over the drug-dealing dues. But Dysart noted the witness who told that story not only mostly fit witnesses’ description of a “lookout” on the shooting scene, he also fled for Pennsylvania soon after the crime and, afterward, had the gun identified as the murder weapon.
“Don’t get distracted by the smoke,” Dysart said.
The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations later Wednesday.