Shocking testimony highlights first day of capital murder trial

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Testimony began Tuesday in the capital murder trial of 21-year-old Rodney McKenzie. He's accused, along with another suspect, of robbing and killing 67-year-old Johnny Bullock in the early morning hours of August 10, 2010. The well known dog groomer was found shot to death in his van on a Pascagoula Street.

In opening arguments, Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade said Johnny Bullock was robbed, beaten, and then murdered by the accused, a capital crime with robbery part of the motive.

"He was fighting two young guys. They were younger, stronger, and one of them was armed with a .380 pistol," Wade said.

In his opening, defense attorney Richard Conant countered that Bullock was gay, and went trolling for sex that morning, using drugs as bait.

"He often used Lortabs to trade for sex and his preferred prey was young black men," Conant said.

When that issue came up later in testimony, it was stricken from the record by Judge Robert Krebs.

Prosecutors tied McKenzie to the Lortabs, saying Bullock's pill bottle was found in McKenzie's apartment the next day. Surveillance video of McKenzie and the other defendant, Daniel Hatten, running from the scene was also shown to the jury.

The defense claims robbery could not have been the motive, because $100 was found in the victim's pocket during an autopsy. David Futch is one of the two attorneys defending McKenzie.

"If someone is going to rob you, I would think they are going to take your money and your pills. And the victim had pills and money on his body," Futch said.

They also say McKenzie is guilty of a crime, just not capital murder.

"We don't deny that our client shot this man. We don't deny that he was there," Futch said.  "The only thing we deny is that this was a actual robbery. We don't think this was a robbery. We feel it was a more of an imperfect self-defense."

Testimony in the trial resumes Wednesday morning at 9am.  The case is expected to possibly last the rest of the week.

Defense attorneys do say they plan on calling Rodney McKenzie to the stand to testify in his own defense.

Conviction on capital murder charges is punishable by either death or life without parole. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in this case.

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