Middletown teen murder trial: What we know today as prosecution resumes

Prosecutors are expected to call numerous witnesses, including a Middletown detective, to the stand today during the second day of a murder trial for a Middletown teen.

Gonnii White, 17, of Middletown, is on trial this week charged with murder with the specifications he used a firearm and was participating in a gang at the time of the shooting death of Joseph Davis, 17.

White, who should be a senior at Middletown High School, allegedly shot and killed Davis, of Middletown, on May 29, 2018 near the corner of Woodlawn Avenue and Garfield Street.

The jury of seven women and five men was selected Monday and opening statements were made and the trial is expected to resume this morning in Butler County Common Pleas Court. Judge Noah Powers II told the jurors, prosecutors and defense attorney to be on time and ready to proceed by 8:30 a.m.

Powers said he hopes to “move this case along.”

Assistant Prosecutor Mike Hon called two witnesses — Middletown communications supervisor Shelley Meehan and police officer Luke Agee — to the stand Monday. Hon expects to call other police officers and witnesses to the stand today. His star witnesses is expected to be Detective Kristi Hughes, who interviewed White for about an hour.

A 911 tape was played Monday and several times during the call, the dispatcher tried to calm down the male on the phone. At times it was difficult understanding what the man was describing and where he was calling from.

“Listen to me I need you to take a deep breath for me, OK,” the dispatcher said. “You need to help this person.”

When asked if the person was breathing or conscious, the caller said “he’s dead.”

Hon described the shooting scene as “chaotic” and there was “a lot of confusion.”

Agee said he was patrolling near University Boulevard and Central Avenue the night of the shooting and he arrived on scene “very quickly.” There were about 50 people near the body of Davis when Agree arrived on the scene, he testified.

When officers arrived, one woman was rendering CPR to Davis. He was transported to the hospital where he died.

Hon said the autopsy showed Davis was shot four times. He was shot in the buttocks, thigh, right side of his back and in his neck, Hon told the jury in his opening statements.

During opening statements, defense attorney Tim Upton told the jury he will prove the shooting was in self defense and the defense of others.

The shooting was the result of two Middletown groups feuding for two days, Hon said. The fighting began on Memorial Day at Douglass Park, continued the next night at Hill Avenue Market, and ended when Davis was killed, Hon said.

White is being tried as an adult after the case was bound over to Common Pleas Court by Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Romans.

White’s trial was continued by Powers for a fourth time at the request of the defense.

In January, following a hearing during which a tape of Middletown detectives questioning White was played, Powers ruled White’s confession will be permitted as evidence at trial.

Upton filed a motion to suppress the statement, arguing White’s rights were violated. In the motion, Upton said White was 16 at the time of the interrogation by police and was not accompanied by an attorney, parent or guardian.

Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress said in a written response that White was read his Miranda warning just seven minutes into the 60-minute interview with Hughes and Detective Steve Winters after they asked basic questions including date of birth, phone number and family history.

The prosecution said White voluntarily made statements and was not coerced by the detectives in any way.

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