By Ed Brock
The first salvos were fired Friday in a Clayton County death penalty case.
In his opening arguments Clayton County Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney John Turner described defendant 41-year-old Rodger Alexander Robinson of Jonesboro as a coward who "terrorizes women and children."
Robinson's defense attorney Bill West said his client "may have been acting in self-defense."
Robinson is accused of entering a Jonesboro apartment where his common-law wife Denna Flemming lived with their children on April 2, 1999, fatally shooting Flemming's sister Deborah Denise Bryant as she slept downstairs and then going upstairs and shooting Flemming twice in front of her children.
"The children begged him not to do it," Turner told the jury.
Turner said the couple had a history of domestic violence that began shortly after their relationship began in 1984 when the two were living in Florida. At the time Robinson was 21 and Flemming was 14, and by 1985 they had twin boys together.
In 1993 they moved to Clayton County and by 1995 Clayton County police made their first report of domestic violence between the couple. Several more incidents occurred and at one point one officer told Flemming that if she didn't leave Robinson she would be dead in six months as a result of the violence.
About two weeks before the incident in which Bryant was killed Robinson was arrested for supposedly threatening Flemming with a baseball bat. And the night before the shooting he broke into Flemming's apartment and choked her with an extension cord, Turner said.
"When he came into that apartment (on the night of the killing) he had a .357 caliber handgun in his hand," Turner said. "He took that handgun and he killed (Bryant)."
Turner said Robinson had told police that Bryant had hit him with a bat but, though Bryant did have a bat near the sofa, police found no injuries to Robinson.
Robinson even kicked Bryant's dead body and tore the phone out of the wall before leaving. Flemming managed to drive to the hospital with her children
Bryant's children were also at the house and witnessed the incident.
"He did all this in front of the children," Turner said.
West said there were problems in Robinson and Flemming's relationship.
"During this relationship there were incidents when things became strained and they would separate for a while," West said.
But Flemming would always call Robinson and ask him to come back home, West said.
Even on the day of the shooting Flemming had paged his client repeatedly, West said, wanting him to come back home. And when she didn't want Robinson to come back before she would prop a chair under the front door knob and wedge a cane in the track of the apartment's sliding glass door to keep Robinson out.
She didn't do that on the night of the incident, West said. Instead, she waited in the apartment with Bryant, armed with knives and a baseball bat.
"Rodger did return home on April 2 after Denna Flemming had invited him. It wasn't as soon as Deborah Bryant and Denna Flemming expected and it caught them unaware," West said. "Rodger may have acted in self defense."
The trial is expected to resume on Monday.