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Davis-Jordan trial, Day 3: Forensic evidence takes center stage in Knoxville teens' murder case

Deondre Davis and Rashan Jordan are accused of murdering Stanley Freeman Jr. as he left Austin-East High School in 2021.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A single thumbprint from one defendant was found in the blue Nissan Altima authorities say two teens used the day they killed Stanley Freeman Jr. near Austin-East High School, court testimony showed Wednesday.

In addition, no genetic evidence from Rashan Jordan, 16, or Deondre Davis, 18, could be conclusively identified from samples taken from the car and from the rifle and pistol they're accused of using.

Experts called to testify about the testing, however, noted that it can be difficult to get both DNA and prints from various materials because of their texture and makeup. What forensic technicians retrieve that's usable is typically nothing like what is portrayed in crime and detective shows, authorities said.

Jordan was 14 and Davis 16 when police say they stalked and killed Stanley Freeman Jr., 16, as he left Austin-East the afternoon of Feb. 12, 2021. Freeman likely was an innocent victim whom the defendants confused with someone else, prosecutor TaKisha Fitzerald has said.

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The blue, rented Nissan after it was seized.

The defendants were in the blue, rented Altima when they followed and then started shooting at Freeman on Tarleton Avenue as he drove away in his Honda Accord, the state alleges. Numerous bullets from two guns hit Freeman's car, and one went through his back and chest before exiting. He wrecked on nearby Wilson Avenue, mortally wounded.

On Wednesday, prosecutors Fitzgerald and Larry Dillon focused on myriad items seized after the teens were arrested, including a pistol, assault-style rifle and the car.

The Nissan was found three days after Freeman's death in the parking lot of a Washington Avenue apartment building. Knoxville Police Department forensic technicians scoured it for evidence, as well as the .45-caliber pistol and the AR-15-style rifle taken from the home where the teens were staying on Cathedral Lane.

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KPD fingerprint analyst Jacklyn Hale on the stand Wednesday.

Items taken from the car included swabs of various spots in the car for DNA and swabs of parts of the guns. TBI Special Agent Kenna Icet testified what she tested from KPD contained the DNA from too many people to discern unique matches. She said she didn't test drinking straws taken from fastfood cups in the vehicle.

KPD crime scene investigator and fingerprint examiner Jacklyn Hale said she matched Jordan's right thumbprint to a print found on the Nissan's rearview mirror.

Hale, a 2022 city of Knoxville Employee of the Year, testified manufacturing materials, intense heat, and exposure to the outdoors are just some of the factors that can alter whether a print can be made or sticks to an object.

Both defense attorneys seized on the lack of genetic evidence linking their clients to the gun and car evidence.

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The defense table Wednesday.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Gregory P. Isaacs, who along with Ashlee Mathis represents Davis, also took pains to point out to the jury that no fingerprint of his client was found in the car.

Prosecutors, however, have other evidence linking Davis and Jordan to the car and guns, including iPhone images and videos of them with what police say are the murder weapons.

The trial continues Thursday morning in Judge Steve Sword's court. It might continue into next week.

Also Wednesday, Davis's aunt testified outside the jury's presence that she saw one of the jurors mouth something and make eye contact with someone in the courtroom on the right side of the room. The aunt was on the other side of the courtroom at the time, where the defendants' families are seated.

She was not specific than that, however, and the defense declined to ask that the juror, the only Black person on the panel, be brought in for one-on-one questioning.

The judge said he hadn't heard enough to convince him the juror had done anything improper.

Credit: WBIR
The courtroom Wednesday.

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