Antoine Kelley Jr. did not murder a Chicago man who was staying with him in April, his lawyer said Tuesday.
“Antoine acted out of self-preservation,” public defender John Watkins said during opening statements on the first day of Kelley's trial. “He reacted in a split second to save his own life.”
Kelley, 28, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Darius McMorris, 23. Police were called April 1 to 5419 S. Harrison St., where they found McMorris face down in a bathtub.
Four 9 mm shell casings were found nearby.
Investigators quickly linked Kelley to the crime.
The owner of the home told police he rented it to Kelley, and dogs there had microchips indicating Kelley was their owner.
At least three witnesses – men with him in the home at the time of the shooting – identified Kelley as the shooter.
A one-sentence notice of self-defense filed June 5 in Allen Superior Court said Kelley will rely on self-defense and “claim the use of justifiable force,” a point Watkins reiterated.
“Not one of these witnesses will actually know what happened in that bathroom,” he said. “You won't hear any evidence this wasn't self-defense. You won't see any evidence that this wasn't self-defense.”
Kelley had driven with McMorris and three other men to Fort Wayne from Chicago to “hit a lick,” a slang term that can refer to robbery, a probable cause affidavit alleges. Witnesses said Kelley had been acting strangely since at least the night before the shooting, when “Antoine came back to the house and was talking about people being after him and talking crazy,” the document said.
A woman identified as “Witness 7” in court documents told police another witness said Kelley was “tweaking on drugs” and believed McMorris had “taken him for $300.”
McMorris then was murdered, Allen County Deputy Prosecutor John Nimmo said.
“All of a sudden, Mr. Kelley pulled out a gun, put in a clip and shot four times,” he told jurors.
Kelley was arrested April 12 in Tennessee, where he had a girlfriend, witnesses reportedly told police.
He faces the murder charge and a sentencing enhancement for using a gun to commit the crime. Murder carries a penalty of at least 45 years in prison, and the enhancement could add 20 years.
The trial will continue today.