Mt. Vernon Register-News

August 10, 2013

Murder trial set for Sept. 10

By RICK HAYES rick.hayes@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — One of the four suspects in an alleged murder that occurred over two years ago in Mt. Vernon will be going to trial early next month.

Mark A. Taylor Jr. of Mt. Vernon, who will turn 21 on Sept. 3, is scheduled to go to trial on Sept. 10, according to court personnel.

State's Attorney Doug Hoffman said the turnaround time between when the defedants were arrested and trial dates established is not out of the ordinary.

“Certainly anytime you have a first-degree murder case, there is typically a long period of time between the time of arrest and taking it to trial. In this particular case, we had one of the defendants enter a guilty plea and agree to cooperate early in the proceedings which caused a delay when the other defendants and attorneys could be prepared for trial.”

Taylor and Damondros Q. James, 20, of Mt. Vernon, Demandre D. Black, 20, of Swansea, and Christopher Wells, believed to be 17 years os age, were all charged with three counts of first-degree murder following the shooting death of 75-year-old cab driver Charles Ellis on May 31, 2011.

Wells previously entered an open guilty plea and is incarcerated in the Franklin County Jail in Benton, awaiting sentencing.

The first charge on each defendant alleges they knew their actions would cause the death of Ellis; the second charge that each knew their actions created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm; and the third charge alleges the murder happened while they were committing the forcible felony of attempted armed robbery.

Ellis was the victim of a single small caliber gunshot wound to the back while in his American cab at the corner of Sixth and Bell streets about 1:30 a.m. on May 31, according to Jefferson County Coroner Eddie Joe Marks. Police arrested all four suspects within 48 hours following the shooting.

Taylor and Black were both scheduled to go to trial on Aug. 20, but Black's trial date has now been vacated, according to Hoffman.

“Mr. Taylor's attorney was out of town when we had him in court earlier this week,” Hoffman said. “His trial is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on Sept. 10. We have no reason at this time to believe it won't go on that date.”

Taylor's final pre-trial is scheduled 1:30 p.m. Aug. 27.

“Since we set Mr. Taylor, Mr. Black's trial was vacated. We will try that case following the Taylor trial,” Hoffman said. Black is represented by Assistant Public Defender Todd Ringel. Black is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Sept. 3.

James, who was recently appointed a new attorney — Aaron Hopkins of West Frankfort — is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Hoffman said there have been attorney changes for both James and Black.

“Given the large amount of discovery and other issues to consider given the seriousness of the case, a murder case is not something that attorneys on either side can not be instantly be prepared to go to trial,” Hoffman said.