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Trial begins in alleged card-game killing

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The trial of a 21-year-old man, accused of an early morning, card-game killing, began Monday.

Jonathan Lavonta Slack allegedly shot 18-year-old Travis Scott to death while the two were playing Spades at a gang-affiliated hang out.

Slack is charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and various weapons violations. Wearing a blue, button-up shirt and the wispy beginnings of a mustache, he swiveled his chair back and forth as his attorney and a county prosecutor took turns questioning potential jurors.

Dawn Belisle-Skinner, an assistant district attorney, asked potential jurors if they knew anyone who'd been assaulted, anyone who had drug problems, if they owned a gun, and if they thought they could be fair and impartial jurors.

Steve Frey, representing Slack, asked the potential jurors about gangs and bullies.

"This case, more than likely, is going to involve a great deal of people who are unlike you," he warned the 14 people in the jury box.

According to police and prosecutors, Slack and about a dozen other young men spent the night of Sept. 9 at 5420 Riverdale Road, in College Park. They were allegedly drinking, smoking marijuana, dropping ecstasy and playing spades all night, when, at 6 a.m., on Sept. 10, Slack reportedly shot Scott in the forehead with a 9 mm handgun.

Witnesses told police they didn't know why. They said Slack shot Scott in the kitchen, and then walked out, gun in hand, "as if nothing had really happened."

Detective Michael Medious' arrest warrant application said there "was no justification for his act. They were playing cards."

During a probable cause hearing in October, Medious said there was a slight altercation between the two before the shooting. Allegedly, Medious said, there was something about a debt Scott owed to someone, and Slack brought it up, but was told to "chill." Then, the detective told the judge, Scott got up to leave the card game and Slack told him to sit back down, but Scott got up anyway.

Slack was arrested in Atlanta and told police "he didn't really mean for what happened to happen," a statement the police understood as a quasi-admission. Frey said he, too, was sorry that what happened happened, but that didn't make him guilty anymore than it made his client guilty.

Frey implied during his questions for the jury, that he will make a case the shooting was self-defense and he will try to characterize Scott as a bully.

"Did anybody ever have a situation with a bully?" Frey asked potential jurors. "Where you knew you were going to have to fight him, one way or another?"

The trial is set to continue Tuesday morning. Slack faces a possible life sentence, if convicted.