The second day of the Bulloch County Superior Court trial of Brendyn Laroy Carter and Thomas Isreal Cooper on murder charges for the September 2019 shooting death of Dexter L. Dunbar Jr. was delayed from Tuesday because only 11 jurors were available.
Judge John R. Turner spoke to attorneys for both sides about the situation at 9 a.m. Then, after Cooper and Carter were brought in to sit between their lawyers, the 11 jurors were also directed into the courtroom and sat in the jury box.
Turner explained that the absent juror had called the clerk of court to report that both the juror and the juror’s child were sick with a stomach virus. The judge then continued the recess of the trial from the previous afternoon, sending the jurors away with instructions to return at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
When jury selection was held in September, more than three weeks before the trial, 14 jurors – including the required 12 and two alternates – were chosen for this case. But then two jurors sought deferrals for different reasons. A hearing was held one week before the trial and those two jurors were excused, leaving only the 12.
The trial had begun at 9 a.m. Monday and lasted until Turner called a recess at about 3:45 p.m. so that jurors could avoid traffic associated with the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Parade.
With assistant district attorneys presenting the prosecution case, much of the first-day testimony came from by law enforcement officers, who were questioned while video from officers’ body cameras and a detective’s evidence photographs were projected on a screen.
A sister of Dunbar’s and another witness to the fight and shooting also testified Monday. A medical examiner, introduced by prosecutors as an expert witness, testified about the results of an autopsy of Dunbar performed by a GBI Crime Lab.
Dunbar, 27 and from Sylvania, died after being shot multiple times in the chest and back in a parking lot of the Stadium Walk apartment complex on Statesboro’s Lanier Drive early on Sept. 15, 2019. Carter, now 24, and Cooper, now 22, both also from Sylvania, were arrested soon after the shooting and have been held at the Bulloch County Jail for more than two years awaiting trial.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, jury proceedings were cancelled statewide for most of a year during that time.