Demery takes the stand

Testifies on his own behalf

By Abby Morris
and Thomas Wilson

Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com; twilson@starhq.com

   Accused killer Timothy Lee Demery took the stand Wednesday morning in his own defense in a trial where he has been charged with first-degree murder.
   Judge Bob Cupp opened Wednesday's trial with an admonishment and warning to Demery about comments the defendant made on Tuesday. Cupp said any threats made by Demery to prosecutors or police involved in the trial would be dealt with severely.
   "I will gag you and bind you when that jury comes in with that verdict," Cupp warned Demery, who is age 27, about any threatening behavior exhibited in the courtroom.
   Demery is charged in the March 2002 shooting death of 37-year-old David Harmon. He told the court he did not threaten anyone but took issue with statements made by Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Baldwin and Carter County Sheriff's Department Capt. George Skeans on Tuesday.
   "I didn't threaten anybody," Demery told Cupp. Baldwin rested the state's case against Demery Wednesday morning.
   Cupp also denied a motion by Oaks to acquit Demery on the charge of first-degree murder after the defense argued the state had not produced evidence proving pre-mediation.
   As part of the defense's case, Oaks called Demery to the stand and Cupp asked Demery if he understood completely that he was not required to testify on his own behalf at the trial. Demery said that he understood.
   During his testimony, Demery related the events of the night of March 13, 2002. He said that he did send his wife and daughter to Jeff Grimes' residence so they would not be at the trailer when he confronted a man named John "Willie" Canova about money which Demery believed the man had stolen from him.
   Demery said that, when the money went missing, both Canova and Harmon were at his residence. He said he suspected Canova and not Harmon. "Me and David Harmon, as far as I knew, was pretty good friends," Demery told the jury.
   On March 13, 2002, Demery said he decided to confront Canova about the money, so he called Harmon's pager because he knew Harmon and Canova were together most of the time. "I knew if I paged David then Willie would come over with him," Demery said. "I paged David to get Willie to the house to confront him about the money."
   Later, around midnight, Demery said he heard Harmon's car pull into the driveway of the residence. "I went ahead and took my shirt off because I was going to fight Willie right in front of God," he said.
   When Harmon got out of his truck, Demery asked him where Canova was and Harmon said he was at the Nashville Sound.
   At that time, Demery said, he and Harmon went inside the residence and smoked marijuana laced with cocaine and drank some liquor.
   While the two were talking, Demery said that he got a .25-caliber handgun out of the room that his cousin, Harold Bishop II, occupied at the residence and showed it to Harmon because the gun had a problem with jamming and he thought maybe Harmon could fix it. Demery said that the .25-caliber handgun belonged to Bishop's mother but that Bishop kept it at the residence he shared with Demery. Bishop was not at home at the time of the incident between Demery and Harmon.
   After looking at the gun, Demery said that Harmon chambered a round and gave the gun back to him. He said he then either put the gun in his pocket or in the cushions of the couch.
   The two men then discussed again the issue of the money Demery said was stolen from his residence.
   "I told him that as soon as I saw Willie I was going to whip him," Demery told the jury. "He said, 'His mom just died and I promised his mom I would take care of him.' And I said, 'that don't give him no right to come in my house and steal from me."
   Demery then said that he and Harmon got into an argument about Demery wanting to fight Canova over the issue of the stolen money and that around 1:30 a.m. on March 14, Harmon tried to punch him, and he ducked out of the way and the two men fought. Demery said he then stood up and the two struggled and Demery eventually got on top of Harmon.
   Demery also said that while he and Harmon were wrestling, someone suddenly kicked in the front door of the residence with such force that it knocked the door trimming off and it flew across the room and struck the opposite wall approximately 10 to 12 feet away. Demery said that after the door was kicked in, Canova came in the residence and grabbed him from behind.
   "Willie picked me up and threw me into the wall so hard that's how the couch got flipped over. I latched onto it to keep my balance," he said.
   A third man also came to the residence, according to Demery. This third man, whom Demery said Canova identified as "Chris" stood in the front door of the residence blocking the doorway, Demery said.
   After fighting with Canova "all over the trailer", Demery said he pushed Canova and Chris out the front door and then saw that Harmon had picked up the .25-caliber handgun and was trying to clear a jammed bullet from the chamber. "It must have fallen out of my pocket or out of the couch when it flipped over and then he picked it up," Demery said.
   When Demery saw Harmon with the gun, he said he ran into Bishop's bedroom and retrieved a .22- caliber rifle, which he said was loaded at the time, and returned to the living room of the residence. "I said, 'David, drop the gun and run out of the house,'" Demery said, adding that he told Harmon a total of three times to drop the firearm.
   Harmon, according to Demery, did not lay the firearm down, so Demery fired a shot at him which struck him. The shot knocked Harmon onto the loveseat, Demery said, and Harmon was able to clear the jam from the gun and chamber a round.
   "As soon as he started to raise the gun I fired at the man. I had no choice. I unloaded the gun on him," Demery said. "Every time he went to raise the gun I shot him. He got up off the loveseat and ran into the bedroom. When he got into the bedroom I heard a round go off and I dove into the bathroom."
   During his testimony, Demery referenced a tape which Carter County Sheriff's Department investigators made during Demery's initial questioning after his arrest. Dispute arose about the tape due to investigators' claims that the recording equipment malfunctioned and only two hours of the four-hour interrogation were recorded followed by the discovery of the rest of the footage.
   Oaks had filed a motion to suppress the tape as evidence but Baldwin said the prosecution would not present the tape as evidence.
   Cupp had not yet ruled on Oaks' motion to suppress the tape. "I don't have to rule on anything until it happens. Nothing has happened yet," Cupp said in court Wednesday morning before the jury entered the courtroom.
   When Demery mentioned the tape during his testimony, he opened a door that allowed it to be used as evidence, according to Cupp.
   During cross examination, Baldwin pointed out that the sequence of events Demery related to the jury were not the same as he had originally told investigators when he was arrested. Baldwin then played a portion of the tape for Demery and the jury in which Demery described what happened when he came out of Bishop's bedroom with the gun.
   "I shot every (expletive) body I saw move. If you moved you got shot at. I shot at three mother (expletive)," Demery says on the tape. "One went out the door and two went in the bedroom. How that one got out of that (expletive) bedroom I have no idea because I sat in that bathroom and kept my eyes on that front door."
   When Baldwin questioned Demery about the differences in his stories, Demery said the version he told the jury was what really happened.
   Following Baldwin's intense cross examination, Oaks rested the defense's case.
   Closing arguments in the case are slated to be made to the jury at 8 a.m. today. Cupp said that it is hoped the case will go to the jury for deliberation by mid-morning.