A discussion of the Carla Hughes murder trial, by Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley
Carla Hughes’ defense team called three character witnesses, including her mother, to testify on her behalf Saturday. The crux of their testimony was that Hughes is a good person, has no violent tendencies, etc., etc.
Character witnesses are typically used to (1) humanize a defendant in the eyes of the jury by showing that the defendant has friends and family who know, love and care about them; and (2) to show the jury that the defendant is not the type of person who would commit the crime charged. Many times, however, character witnesses can do more harm than good. If the defendant has committed bad acts in the past, the State is allowed to cross-examine the character witnesses as to those parts of the defendant’s character. These bad acts would otherwise not be allowed into evidence. Frequently, we must forego calling character witnesses, in order to prevent the jury from hearing about other less-than-stellar aspects of our clients’ lives.
Carla Hughes, however, is different. She seems to be the perfect defendant to put character witnesses on the stand. She’s educated, intelligent, and has no criminal history. By all accounts, there aren’t really any skeletons in her closet. Using character witnesses in her defense is a good call, in my opinion.
The defense also revisited the issue of Keyon Pittman’s whereabouts at the time of the murder. The defense called Antonious Caldwell. Caldwell was an assistant basketball coach at Chastain at the time Banks was killed. On the night of the murder, Caldwell remembered seeing Pittman at basketball practice, but did not see him for 30-40 minutes or so after 6:00 p.m. Caldwell conceded that Pittman could have been in the building, but he just didn’t see him during that time period.
Caldwell’s testimony did not totally destroy Pittman’s alibi, but it did raise more doubt about whether he was at practice at the time of the murder. Add this to the fact that Pittman’s alibi witness, Bridget Matlock, is not exactly what we would call a “disinterested witness,” and it may just add up to reasonable doubt.
Trial is scheduled to resume Monday.