Trial begins in killing of Good Samaritan

By Ed Brock

On Nov. 9, 2001, Buford Evans was killed, a fate he didn't deserve.

Both sides in the trial of 46-year-old James Stewart Odom, the man charged in Evans' death, agree to that. But in Tuesday's opening arguments Odom's attorney Steve Frey said it wasn't his client but another man, Bobby Gray, who committed the crime.

"It does matter who killed Buford Evans and the evidence is going to show you that Bobby Gray killed Buford Evans," Frey said.

On the night of the killings, Odom and Gray borrowed a car from a friend and went to buy crack cocaine and liquor, Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Jack Jennings said in his opening. At one point they ran out of both.

"They wanted some more crack. They wanted some more liquor. They didn't have any more money," Jennings said.

That's when Odom decided to go see Evans, a man who had helped him out in the past.

"The murderer told police that Mr. Evans was the kind of man who would give you the shirt off his back," Jennings said.

But at some point after they got to Evans' house, Jennings said, the two of them attacked Evans, a man left crippled by strokes and a heart attack who lived alone and was forced to walk with a cane.

Jennings said Odom wanted the jury to believe that he came upon Gray attacking Evans with a knife and tried to help him, but that Odom's story would not hold up to the facts.

Frey pointed out that his client had defensive cuts on his hand from a struggle with Gray and that only Gray's fingerprints were found on a trophy from the house that was used to beat Evans.

But Frey also said that at no point would Odom come out of the case "wearing a white hat."

Describing his client as an uneducated man who worked on cars, Frey said that Odom's father had died when Odom was young and Odom tried to work to help his mother.

"James Odom's life, though, was crippled by substance abuse," Frey said. "This addiction manifested itself in irresponsibility. It manifested itself in keeping low-life company."

Gray and Odom were originally scheduled to stand trial together but last month the cases were severed at Jennings request.

Other witnesses who testified Tuesday included the Clayton County police sergeant who responded to the scene and Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiner Dr. Jacqueline Martin.

Martin told the jury that the cause of Evans' death was a puncture of the heart by a cutting instrument.

Testimony in the case is expected to continue today.