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Jurors deliberate murder case against accused shooter of Davenport activist

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Jury deliberations have begun in the murder trial of Deondra Thomas, accused of shooting and killing Jason Roberts in downtown Davenport last June.

Thomas faces charges of murder and firearms possession by a felon. Prosecutors argue that Roberts was trying to intervene in a fight between Thomas and others outside MVP Sports Bar on June 9, 2018.

“For Jason to step in and say ‘We’re just trying to have a good time,’ it cost him his life,” Scott County Attorney Mike Walton told jurors. “Deondra stepped back and shot him, three times.”

Walton told jurors the killing was premeditated and urged them to find Thomas guilty of murder in the first degree.

In laying out their case, prosecution attorneys relied on the testimony of a key witness: Thomas’ cousin.

“Deondra admitted it,” to his cousin, Walton said.

During the trial, the cousin, a reluctant witness for the state, testified that he drove Thomas to the bar in a maroon GMC Yukon, and left with him shortly after gunshot rang out.

The cousin said Thomas did not mention Roberts’ by name, but told him, “Dude put his hands on him and he shot him.”

Walton reminded jurors that they must weigh both direct and circumstantial evidence.

Several other witnesses had also placed Thomas at the crime scene or saw Thomas walking away calmly just after shots rang out, Walton said. Taking the witnesses’ statements together, he argued, “you should have no doubt Deondra fired those shots.”

The prosecution also has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted premeditatively and with intent to kill.

“Three times he had to pull the trigger. If that’s not intent, if that’s not premeditation, what is?” Walton asked jurors.

Defense attorney Jack Dusthimer in his closing argument cast doubt on the witnesses’ statements. He sought to highlight inconsistencies in their statements on the witness stand and prior interviews they had given to police. He pointed out that several witnesses who were at MVP Bar were inebriated or had prior run-ins with authorities and given changing statements.

“Would you hesitate to rely on somebody like that?” he asked several times.

“I have nothing but respect for the Roberts family,” he told jurors. “But this is not about Roberts. It’s about whether or not the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Jurors began deliberating late Tuesday afternoon and will continue on Wednesday.

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