By MYRA THRIFT Staff Writer
He was tried for malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and tampering with evidence after fatally shooting Devanta Jerome Wade, 20, in a nightclub parking lot 14 months ago.
Velasco-Catalan’s defense was self-defense while the state argued that it was a gang-related murder.
Velasco-Catalan showed no emotion when the verdict was read.
The only audible sound was the mother of the victim, Wade, who raised her hand and asked if she could ask a question. She was not allowed to speak in the open courtroom and was compelled by a bailiff to keep silent.
The assistant District Attorney who prosecuted the case, Cynthia Welch, called for a polling of the jury. Each member of the jury answered Judge Brooks’ question in the affirmative that they had indeed made the decision for a not guilty verdict without duress.
Testimony in the case began Wednesday at 9 a.m. and continued all day and into Thursday. Closing arguments were given by the prosecution and defense on Thursday afternoon and the case was turned over to the jury.
After deliberating about three hours, the jury was released at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Jurors returned at 9 a.m. Friday to resume.
At one point Friday morning, the jury returned to the courtroom asking to again be allowed to view a video depicting the Feb. 14, 2016 shooting death of Wade, 20 in the 200 block of Knight Avenue, the parking lot of The Dome nightclub, and the video of Velasco-Catalan’s interview with Waycross police detective Sgt. Teresa Grant.
The videos had been presented as evidence during the trial.
At 11:05 a.m., Judge Brooks re-entered the courtroom and told officials “… we have a verdict.”
The jury was then returned to the jury box and the foreman handed the verdict to bailiff Mack Petty, who in turned handed the document to the judge.
Brooks turned the paper over to Ware County Clerk of Court Melba Fiveash to publish the verdict. She read the charges, one by one, and read the verdict on each one.
The judge asked if it was a unanimous verdict and the foreman answered that it was. He then polled the jury one by one to find out if each one had indeed voted not guilty. They had.
Brooks then thanked the jury for their service and released them from the courtroom.
He then turned to Velasco-Catalan and said, “The jury has reached a verdict of not guilty” and told the defendant he was free to go.
Jonathan Jason Guevara, 20, who was driving the car that Velasco-Catalan was sitting in when he fired the shot that killed Wade, was also arrested and charged with murder in the case. Welch confirmed that Guevara is to be tried.