Defense Argues Witnesses Told Police What They Wanted to Hear

Defense attorney Brian Daly questions Jonathan Tolbert.
Defense attorney Brian Daly questions Jonathan Tolbert.

Several men with lengthy criminal histories testified today in the Jennifer Ross murder trial. They say they are telling the truth but they have something to gain by taking the stand against the three men on trial.

Michael Thorpe, Webster Wilson and Kevin Huckabee strolled into court as week two of their murder trial began this morning.

Their friend Jonathan Tolbert was the first on the stand. He admitted to helping Thorpe and Huckabee steal a gray Ford Taurus from Savannah Toyota last year. Police say that's the car used in the robbery and shooting.

Tolbert will not be charged with stealing the car if he testifies truthfully.

Prosecutor David Lock asked whether he told tell police what they wanted to hear or the truth. "I told them the truth," Tolbert testified.

The defense attorneys argued Tolbert has lied before and is making up stuff to save his own skin.

Defense attorney Brian Daly got Tolbert to admit that the more charges police add against him, the more he tells them.

The next witness, Ernest Seabrook, has three prior convictions for possession of drugs, possession of a firearm and burglary. He testified that Kevin Huckabee gave him the gray Taurus a couple of days after Ross was shot. Seabrook had the car when police found it on Wheaton Street in January.

Again the defense attorneys said Seabrook was telling police what they wanted to hear to avoid more time behind bars.

Another convicted criminal, Rashawn Seabrook, also took the stand today. Rashawn Seabrook made audiotape and videotape statements to police that all three defendants--Michael Thorpe, Kevin Huckabee and Webster Wilson--took part in the robbery and shooting of Ross last Christmas Eve.

Today on the stand Seabrook said the statement he made was false and that Savannah-Chatham police detective Don McCutcheon helped him rehearse what to say.

After that the judge took an hour and a half break for lunch. Court resumed around 2:15pm, but recessed again while the judge decided whether to let the prosecution's star witness testify.

That witness is Sean Thorpe, Michael Thorpe's uncle, and he has told police he was with Michael Thorpe, Wilson and Huckabee during the robbery and shooting.

Just before 3pm, Judge Haas Freeman ruled Sean Thorpe can testify and he took the stand.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter,