Jury recesses before reaching verdict in Antioch church shooting trial

Posted at 6:22 AM, May 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 23:30:57-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After three days of testimony, closing arguments came to an end and the jury began deliberating in the Antioch church shooting trial. However, they took a recess for the day and will resume deliberating Friday.

Emanuel Samson is accused of killing one and injuring others at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch on September 24, 2017.

Melanie Crow, age 39, was fatally shot in the church parking lot. Several others were injured, including Minister Joey Spann and usher Robert Engle, who was able to subdue the gunman until police arrived.

Day four began with defense attorney Jennifer Thompson questioning the state wanting to introduce jailhouse calls made by Samson as part of its rebuttal to prove that his testimony on the stand was inconsistent with what was recorded. There was a total of 1,500 calls, which on average lasted about 15 minutes each -- that’s about 375 hours of calls Samson made in more than a year.

However, the defense argued what the state is wanting the jury to listen to was too broad and showed more than one inconsistent statement made by Samson. Thompson said it wasn’t relevant and didn’t want the transcript handed out to jurors.

Thompson said the nature of the phone calls was prejudicial and “extremely offensive,” referring to Maya Hill’s – Samson’s then girlfriend, who testified on Wednesday – remarks about Minister Joey Spann.

Although portions of the audio were inaudible, Hill said at one point, “please get the guy off the stage,” referring to Spann after he appeared on local media saying he thought he died after being shot.

NewsChannel 5 obtained the following transcript of the conversation played in court, which read in part:

Samson: "But hey, hey, hey when I was on the floor bruh [sic] like I could *undecipherable* nah [sic] when I put the two bullets in my chest and laid down and I was on the floor and I could hear what everyone was saying and some people were saying some funny s*** bruh [sic] [laughs] and I was like if Maya were here listening to y’alls [sic] whack a****, bruh [sic] [laughs].”

Hill: “Oh God, it’s like so much funny [sic] and like you know, you know honestly.”

Samson: “And it is a lot of funny things I mean cause, we’re able to you and I, laugh at one another and able to look at the humor in any situation even in a f***** up situation like that so the next time we blunt riding bruh [sic] my n*****, gah, but anyway.”

Hill: “No listen to this though baby so, so the pastor was on the news and was like I told my wife 'he killed me honey, he shot me and I’m dying.' And I’m thinking n***** you gah [sic] like bruh [sic] reading reading what his quote was I am sitting here like get this guy off the f****** stage someone please get this guy off the stage.”

Samson: “For real?”

Hill: “Yeah he was like 'I looked over at my wife and I told her he shot me honey, I am dying and I am so sorry.' I am like.”

Samson: “Oh lawd [sic]. Anyway.”

The state said there were issues with credibility regarding Hill, suggesting she was also inconsistent. In one of the calls, Hill asked Samson about women reaching out to him after the shooting and how he was receiving mail and gaining notoriety.

“Everyone wants a piece of me right now,” Samson reportedly responded.

Earlier, the defense said that comment was irrelevant.

Samson: "So I was looking that good? Was I on flow? Was I looking on flow?"

Hill: "Aye you was looking stout as f***, you were tall as sh**, uh you look taller than the usual person honestly, uh eh you look."

Samson: "Yeah I was towering over them f*** asses, hell yeah, ya feel me?"

Hill: "And, and."

Samson: "Big sexy hashtag, hashtag."

Hill: "You really were, yeah you really were, And then on top of that your face just looked completely 110% unbothered like it didn’t look like you had been crying or hysterical, you just look 100% calm."

Samson: "Unfazed."

After a lengthy debate, jurors were finally allowed back in after the Judge Cheryl Blackburn ruled the state can play portions of Samson’s jailhouse calls.

On Wednesday, jurors heard from Samson himself, who testified that he remembered shooting himself but no one else during the attack.

"Do you remember shooting Melanie Crow," he was asked.

"I do not," Samson replied.

"Do you remember shooting Pastor Joey Spann," Thompson asked.

"I do not," Samson again responded.

Samson also told the jury he didn't remember putting on a mask, tactical vest or writing a note referencing Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof.

The prosecution said the note proves his actions were racially motivated.

During closing arguments, a Defense attorney Jennifer Thompson argued the phone calls between Samson and his girlfriend are not significant and that what he says in the calls are evidence of suicide. The attorney also brought up the speed of his speech, suggesting he was manic at the time of the call.

Attorney Thompson also suggested that Samson shot Melanie Crow because he was startled.

"If it he had really been his goal that day to kill 10 people, one more that Dylan Roof had killed, wouldn't he have at least turned around and finished those people off? I mean just give them -- we all watch T.V. we know people get up after they're shot any way -- in a horror movie they're screaming -- get em! So if you wanted to be sure, if this was a goal you had pre-planned, wouldn't you have given more of a close up shot to the people that were wounded," Thompson said.

Jury members were dismissed from the courtroom to begin deliberating at 3:45 Thursday afternoon.

While the jury deliberated, Samson's sister took the stand as an offer of proof.

She testified to her and Emanuel's rough childhood, saying her mother was abusive and their father was an alcoholic and also abusive. She said she cut Emanuel out of her life after he tried to commit suicide in 2017.

NewsChannel 5 will have live Gavel-to-Gavel coverage throughout the trial. You can also follow reporter Matthew Torres ( @NC5_MTorres ) for updates.

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