Appeals court upholds guilty verdict in Club Tiffany shooting case

Steve Korris Feb. 23, 2010, 5:00am

Jefferson County jurors didn't believe that Darrius Spearman killed Marcus Allen in self defense at a Port Arthur night club, and Ninth District appeals judges don't believe it either.

The Ninth District affirmed Spearman's murder conviction on Feb. 10. He faces 50 years in prison.

"The only testimony at trial in support of Spearman's claim that he acted in self defense was his own," Justice David Gaultney wrote. "The jury could reasonably reject some or all of the defendant's testimony, and accept the testimony of those witnesses called by the state."

Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justice Hollis Horton agreed.
Spearman,19, and Allen,19, had known each other in school and allegedly belonged to rival gangs.

On Nov. 25, 2007, Spearman and Allen joined a crowd dancing at Club Tiffany on Houston Street in downtown Port Arthur. At 1:30 a.m., a disc jockey played a song urging patrons to "throw your sets up."

Patrons flashed signs and waved blue rags and flags. A fight broke out.

The song advised, "Put your guns in the air."

As recorded gunshots rang out, so did a real one. Allen fell.

According to the court papers, people started kicking him. Club owner Gerald Hatch and bouncer Easton Washington stopped them and carried Allen outside.

"Call my mama," Allen said.

They laid him near the door, went inside, and shut the place down.
Patron Meyoshia Carter-Smith called 911. She tried to resuscitate Allen, but his eyes rolled up in his head.

Port Arthur policeman Matthew Bulls arrived and spoke with Hatch and Washington.

Bulls asked detective Herbert Otis to find Spearman, and Otis found him.

Spearman said Allen pulled a handgun on him. He said he grabbed the gun, turned it towards Allen, and pulled the trigger.

Korwin Thomas, a friend of Spearman, told Otis he witnessed the shooting. He admitted he and others kicked Allen.

He said that prior to the shooting, he heard Spearman tell others he would kill Allen if he saw him at the club. Otis drafted a statement and Thomas signed it.

At trial before Criminal District Court Judge John Stevens, pathologist Tommy Brown said Allen was shot in the back and the bullet went through his heart.

He said there was nothing to indicate it was a close range shot.

Carter-Smith told jurors, "I seen (sic) like a flash, light, and I seen (sic) somebody drop."

Club owner Hatch said he grabbed a man attacking Allen and got him to the door.

Hatch said the man took off running.

Spearman took the stand and swore that he hit Allen, who came back at him with a gun in his left hand.

"I thought he was fixing to shoot me," he told jurors.

Asked why he didn't run, he said, "It was too packed to run."

Asked why he grabbed the gun, he said, "That's the only thing that I thought would have helped me out."

Spearman said he grabbed the gun with his right hand over Allen's left hand. He said they wrestled and the gun discharged.

He said Allen fell, leaving him holding the gun. He said he dropped it, kicked it, and quickly walked out.

Spearman's friend Thomas took the stand and contradicted his statement to police, claiming he was high on PCP when he signed it.

Thomas denied he saw Spearman with a gun, witnessed the shooting, kicked Allen or heard Spearman tell others he would kill Allen.

Jurors knew his story changed, because they heard every word of his signed statement.

On top of that, Otis testified that Thomas answered questions in a cogent manner. Otis said Thomas didn't tell him he was under the influence of drugs.

Jurors convicted Spearman.

On appeal, Spearman claimed he established self defense. He also argued that Judge Stevens should have kept Thomas's signed statement from the jury.

Ninth District judges found no support for self defense. They felt Stevens shouldn't have allowed Thomas's written statement, but declared the error harmless.

"Considering the complete record, including the defendant's own statements to police, his testimony at trial, and Thomas' trial testimony, we conclude the challenged evidentiary ruling does not require reversal of the judgment," Gaultney wrote.

"A rational jury could conclude Spearman intentionally caused Allen's death by shooting him with a firearm," he wrote.

Rodney Conerly represented the state. Hugh O'Fiel represented Spearman.

In January 2008, Allen's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Club Tiffany and owner Hatch.

Represented by Beaumont attorney Gilbert Adams, the Allens allege there had been several prior shootings at the club, and therefore Hatch should have known that his club was "unsafe and presented an unreasonable risk of harm to patrons."

The suit also alleges Hatch, who is represented by the Strong Pipkin firm in Beaumont, was negligent for failing to provide adequate security, properly train employees, take preventative action and creating opportunities for criminals to conduct criminal activity.

The case is still pending.

More News