Testimony begins in murder trial for suspect accused of 2015 deadly shooting

Testimony begins in murder trial for suspect accused of 2015 deadly shooting

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -The murder trial for a suspect charged in a deadly shooting on Savannah State University’s campus back in 2015 is finally getting underway.

Justin Stephens is accused of killing Chris Starks. He faces 10 felony charges including murder, assault, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Police say Stephens shot and killed Starks at the SSU Student Union after an argument. He was arrested two years later.

Now that a jury has been selected, opening statements have been made, and the trial that was postponed in May is underway.

Prosecution set up their case for jurors in their opening statements, explaining why they believe Justin Stephens is the person responsible for firing a single round that hit and killed Chris Starks in the Savannah State University student union in 2015.

The state told jurors it was a fight between Savannah State Students and non-students. They claim this is a case where Justin Stephens approached Chris Starks, who was wearing a red bandana, and identified him as a gang member. The state says friends of Starks will testify that Starks wore all colors of bandanas and had no gang affiliation.

A fight broke out as tensions rose, and at some point Starks was shot.

Stephens’ defense attorney led off his opening statement reminding jurors that the state has the burden of proof, that his client won’t testify and to not hold that against him. The defense also told jurors he anticipates a lot of impeachments over the course of this trial, adding witnesses of the fight gave police several different stories.

There have been at least two more shootings on the campus of Savannah State University since Starks was shot and killed in 2015. The most recent was in May of 2019 when a student was shot near the University Commons housing complex. De’Ante Scott was arrested but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was still searching for a second suspect, seen running from the area. The victim of that shooting lived.

The other shooting that happened in February of 2018 killed 20-year-old Kaleel Clarke. Phillip Burke was arrested in connection to that shooting and charged with felony fleeing or attempting to elude and two felony weapons charges. According to the Chatham County bookings site, Burke was granted bond last month.

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