Trial Begins For Men Charged in 12-Year-Old's Death
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It's been three years since 12-year-old Mikia Woodland was killed during a robbery at her family's Nashville home. On Tuesday, testimony began in the trial of two of the five men charged in her death.
During opening statements, prosecutors told the jury that Mikia lived in a home on Maury Street with her father and grandmother. Her father, Dwayne Hooten, is an admitted drug dealer who was shot 13 years ago and has been in a wheelchair ever since.
Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore says Hooten's disability made him an easy target for the five men charged in this case.
"They knew the dealer who lived there is in a wheelchair and is crippled, and wouldn't be able to put up much of a fight," said Moore.
He says five men, including Justin Howard and Cedric Peppers, went to the house during the early morning hours of July 9, 2009, intending to rob Hooten.
Prosecutors then called Mikia's grandmother, Shannon Hooten, to the stand, to testify about what happened next.
She said she saw the men in her kitchen, and one of them pointed a gun at her and told her to go back to her bedroom.
In the courtroom, Hooten identified the man with the gun as Cedric Peppers.
She says she went to her bedroom, called 911, and moments later, heard a gunshot. She broke down and cried as she described what she saw next.
"There was blood," she said. "Mikia ran from the living room to her bedroom in a circle, came out and went to the second bedroom and fell on the floor."
The next witness, Dwayne Hooten, described a similar scene.
"She was dripping blood, and I could tell she was trying to breathe," he said. "My mom was trying to calm her down at the same time."
Defense attorneys for both Justin Howard and Cedric Peppers say their clients are innocent.
"In July of 2009, Mr. Peppers never entered the home of Mikia Woodland, never," said Peppers' defense attorney, Joy Kimbrough.
Tillman Payne, who represents Howard, said the same during his opening statement.
"Justin Howard is being blamed for a crime he did not commit," he said.
Among the other witnesses called on Tuesday was Jeffery Foxx, one of the other three men charged in Mikia's death. Foxx testified against Howard and Peppers.
During cross-examination, defense attorneys pressed Foxx, and asked whether testifying against their clients was his only chance at avoiding more jail time.
While Justin Howard and Cedric Peppers are being tried together, the jury has been instructed to consider their charges separately, and could come back with two different verdicts.
Foxx will be back on the stand when the trial resumes Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.