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Armed robbery trial for Daniels begins

    The armed robbery trial of Vandy Mack Daniels, charged with shooting a West Main Street convenience store clerk in the head during an armed robbery, was delayed by more than two hours Thursday because Daniels refused to wear civilian clothes in the court room and destroyed clothing given to him to wear.
    Another delay was when the trial was recessed so a jury in another trial could publish a verdict.
    Daniels first entered the courtroom in a black and white jail jumpsuit, before the jury entered the courtroom.  But when he was taken to a holding cell to change into civilian clothing,  he apparently ripped apart the clothes provided for him.
    A bailiff came into the courtroom and told the judge " We have a problem."
    After a brief conversation, defense attorney Stephen Yekel told Woodrum "The clothes have been destroyed."
    Daniels wanted to be tried in a jail jump suit, he said, but added he advised Daniels against it because doing so could influence the jury. Daniels agreed to wear a second set of clothing brought to the courthouse by deputies and appeared before the jury wearing khaki pants and a black and white striped polo shirt.
    A short period later, Bulloch County Superior Court Judge William Woodrum called for a recess in Daniels' trial when a jury in another trial reached a verdict after three days of testimony and deliberation. Daniels was taken to a holding cell outside the courtroom, where he apparently stripped and ripped up the civilian clothes he was wearing.
    He also ripped apart the jail jumpsuit and was in the holding area in his white boxer shorts, said Bulloch County Sheriff's Sgt. Todd Mashburn, who said he saw Daniels ripping the clothing.
    Woodrum asked that the destroyed clothing and Daniels' actions be recorded as evidence and as part of the  trial.
    Yekel said he had a conference with Daniels after he destroyed the first set of clothes and " he said he would not do it again."
    " I have no clue why he is tearing the clothes up," Mashburn said.
     "It appears Mr. Daniels does not wish the trial to move forward," Woodrum said. Expressing concern over the safety of everyone in the courtroom, as well as "based upon previous threats and actions" in earlier hearings, Woodrum decided Daniels could be tried in a jail jump suit, along with leg and wrist shackles.
    He asked that the three sets of destroyed clothing be brought in as evidence. When a bailiff handed the clothes to Mashburn, he began separating them, then dropped them swiftly.
    "It appears he urinated on one of the shirts," he said.
    At 11:30 a.m., Daniels entered the courtroom wearing a green jumpsuit, handcuffs and leg shackles.
    Yekel asked the court to reconsider and give Daniels a third chance to dress in civilian clothing, but Woodrum denied it.
    
Trial begins, witnesses testify
    During opening arguments Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Keith McIntyre told jurors Daniels is suspected of shooting convenience store clerk Sharika Gardner twice, once in the head and once in the arm.
    He told them they would see a video of the robbery and that the clerk still has a bullet in her arm.
    Yekel advised the jury to listen to the evidence and testimony, not what was said during opening arguments.
    "This is not what you see on TV," he said. "This is real. This is serious."
    He told jurors the  only connection prosecutors had was that the gun used in the robbery March 6, 2006 at Mighty Mike's Hot Stop #111 in Statesboro was the same gun Daniels used in a Millen armed robbery 41 hours later.
    "Not one person will ... say Vandy Mack Daniels is the person who robbed me," he said.
    McIntyre called several law enforcement witnesses, including Statesboro Police Det. Sgt. James Winskey, and Officer Daniel Handshumaker, who testified he responded to the scene and saw the clerk "wiping blood off her arm and head."
    Gardner, 25,  testified calmly while Daniels stared at her, showing no emotion. She told how she was doing schoolwork and had her Bible with her when Daniels entered the store and jumped up onto the counter.
    "When I looked up I saw a man with a gun on the counter," she said. "I couldn't see his face - he was completely covered up."
    She told how he fired one shot in the air, the fired twice more. "I was shot in t he head and the arm," she said. "I remember him saying 'I'm not playing with you ... I felt both bullets when they went in."
    Jessica Gaiser, the clerk in the Millen store that Daniels was convicted of robbing, also testified, as did a vendor who was in the store at the time.
    Vendor Charles Hudson, who had not heard Gardner's testimony,  told jurors he heard Daniels say "Give it up, b..." as he demanded money, and said to Gaiser "I'm not playing with you."
    "I heard the gun click and saw him pull the trigger," he said. Daniels' gun misfired during the Millen armed robbery.
    McIntyre and Yekel each questioned other witnesses in the Millen incident before returning to Winskey's testimony, during which a copy of the convenience store's surveillance video showed the robbery taking place.
    The video shows a man  jumping on the counter, firing shots and demanding cash from Gardner, who is panicking and tells him she cannot open the register. She had already given him a bag of cash  - about $200 - from a change fund.
    "You can see her hair fly up when she's hit," Winskey said. "It was almost point blank - and he already had the  money."
    The trial resumes today at 9 a.m.

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