Day Four of the Fayetteville Applebee’s murder trial began Thursday with an unsuccessful motion from the defense for a mistrial based on Wednesday afternoon testimony that identified one of the defendants as having converted to Islam.
Alicia Paschel, the mother of defendant Gregory Haney, was on the witness stand Wednesday when Assistant District Attorney David McDade asked her if her son went by any name other than his birth name. Paschel said he has a nickname “Pooh” and that he also goes by “Isa”.
“Both of my sons are Islamic,” Paschel continued. “I never call them by their Islamic names.”
Earlier in the week, Superior Court Judge Fletcher Sams granted the defense’s request to not present certain confiscated belongings of Haney’s, which include Islamic papers and writings. Haney’s public defense attorney David Studdard, who called for the mistrial, said he was concerned the jury might be prejudiced against his client because of Paschel’s revelation.
McDade said he asked the question of Paschel, not to bring up the Islamic issue, which he said is irrelevant to the case, but to establish the fact that Haney sometimes uses a different name. In particular, McDade noted that the mobile phone believed to be Haney’s was registered under the name “Isa Abdullah”.
Sams denied the mistrial motion after affirming the relevance of McDade’s questioning and assuring attorneys for Haney and his co-defendant Ladarius Jackson that he would instruct the jury not to be influenced by Paschel’s comments about her sons being Islamic.
During Paschel’s testimony Wednesday, she said her son admitted to her that he shot and killed the Fayetteville Applebee’s manager later identified as Gregory Smith on June 7, 2015. She confirmed it was her understanding that her son’s friend Ladarious Jackson was the getaway driver.
Haney and Jackson are on trial for murder and armed robbery.
Thursday morning, a second of Haney’s former girlfriends testified that she helped him acquire the gun that prosecutors say link him to Smith’s murder.
Latosha Fortson-Coats said Haney and she became boyfriend and girlfriend around February 2015. She acknowledged she bought the 9mm handgun for Haney on Feb. 28, 2015 at Arrowhead Pawn Shop in Jonesboro. That gun, she says, was defective, so she and Haney exchanged it for another one on March 2, 2015. She said both times Haney took custody of the gun, and she never got it back from him, even though he said he would return it to her.
Fortson-Coats also testified that on June 2, 2015, which is several weeks after she and Haney broke up and five days before the Applebee’s murder, Haney physically assaulted her at her workplace.
Fortson-Coats said she was working behind the deli-bakery counter at the Kroger on Tara Boulevard that day when Haney entered the store, walked behind her counter and punched her in the face. When she fell to the floor, Haney reportedly kicked her repeatedly. According to prosecutors, the incident was captured on store security cameras.
“He asked me why I can’t keep his name out of my mouth,” Fortson-Coats told the court.
McDade noted that Fortson-Coats later lied to police about the location of the gun, which had been registered in her name. She admitted on the witness stand Thursday morning she lied to police, saying she was afraid of getting linked to the Applebee’s murder. She also acknowledged her fear of Haney.
“Are you afraid of Mr. Haney today?” McDade asked Fortson-Coats.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Have you lied to cover up for him?” McDade continued.