UPDATE: Jury selected for Cortez Sims' trial - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Jury selected for Cortez Sims' trial

Posted: Updated:
Cortez Sims in court Thursday. WRCVtv.com photo Cortez Sims in court Thursday. WRCVtv.com photo
Cortez Sims sits in Jtdge Steelman's court Monday. WRCBtv.com Cortez Sims sits in Jtdge Steelman's court Monday. WRCBtv.com
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The jury has been selected for the Cortez Sims murder trial. Cortez Sims could face life in prison.

The jury is sequestered meaning they must stay in a hotel during the trial. They will not have access to any internet, cell phones, or the media.

Judge Steelman said the trial could last up to two weeks

Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: Judge Barry Steelman has ruled that he will allow police body cam video and victims statements to be used in the murder trial of Cortez Sims.

On Thursday, Steelman explained that the video is crucial evidence, and likened it to a 911 call.

Sims' defense team called the video inflammatory and asked to keep the entire video out of the proceedings.

The body camera footage is from a Chattanooga Housing Authority officer who was first to respond to the shooting in College Hill Courts, Jan. 7th, 2015. 

The video shows the moments after the shooting that killed Talitha Bowman and wounded three others, including a one-year-old girl.
    
In the video, one of the victims clearly names Cortez Sims as the shooter.

"This is a crucial piece of evidence for the state, very harmful to the defense, so I filed a motion," said Defense Attorney Lee Ortwein.

The defense doesn't want a jury to see video of the moments following the shooting, including images of 1-year-old Zoey Duncan, who was shot in the back.

"Showing the baby being carried out of the house is completely unnecessary," Ortwein said, "All of those things are simply inflammatory to a jury."

But the judge disagrees. 

He will allow the jury to watch the video and hear from Zoey's mother, Bianca Horton, who was killed in a separate shooting last spring.

"Court will allow Ms. Horton's in court testimony in the transfer hearing in the case against Mr. Sims," said Judge Barry Steelman.

Bianca's brother, Derrick Shaw, listened to the judge's decision in the courtroom.

"We're just going to keep trusting God and see that the law will see us through this. We're just going to take it day by day," Shaw said.

He's in court to show support for the victims, his friend, sister, and his now 3-year-old niece Zoey Duncan.

"How's Zoey doing?"

"She's wonderful," Shaw said, smiling.

The judge still has to decide if a change of venue will be granted and if Bianca Horton's death will be allowed to be discussed in trial. Her murder case is still unsolved.

Steelman said the case will be tried in April in Hamilton County, possibly with a jury from another part of the state.

There's another motions hearing schedule for Feb. 16th, 1:30 pm.


PREVIOUS STORY:  A Chattanooga man, accused of killing a woman, shooting a baby and three others when he was only 17, does not want to stand trial in his hometown.

Now 19, Cortez Sims faced a judge, like he has several times since the murder two years ago, in Hamilton County court.

"This defendant's not going to be able to get a fair trial at this point. As the court knows this is a case that probably has everything in it that the front page needs," said Defense Attorney Lee Ortwein

Defense attorneys for Cortez Sims want to see his murder trial happen in a different city, and for the first time in court people heard audio testimony from Bianca Horton, a key witness in this case who was murdered last Spring.

Sims' trial for the murder of Talitha Bowman, 20, is expected to begin in April.
        
Detectives said Sims also shot Marcell Christopher, Bianca Horton, and Horton's 1 year-old daughter Zoey Duncan.
    
His lawyers, who just recently started representing him in September, argue Sims will not get a fair trial in Hamilton County based on the surrounding media coverage.

"What could there be that the juror read in the paper or seen on television that they wouldnt' hear in trial?" asked Judge Barry Steelman. 

"That Bianca Horton is dead," said Ortwein.  

"Okay well that's something I have to decide whether they hear," the Judge responded.

While Sims sat in jail, someone murdered the state's key witness.    

The defense wants to keep Bianca Horton's death out of the courtroom, saying there's no proof it had anything to do with her involvement in the case against Cortez Sims.

But Horton already talked with a detective about what she saw. Her audio interview was played in court. She described the shooting that happened in her home in College Hill Courts.

"And I just seen Talitha laying on the floor dead and my baby was hollering my name," Horton said in an audio interview with Detective Christopher Blackwell.

Horton told the detective she saw the shooter but didn't know him by name.

"If we're able to get a line up..." asked Det. Blackwell.

"I should be able to identify him," Horton said.

A few hours after the shooting, Horton identified the shooter as Cortez Sims through a photo line up.

But the defense team wants to keep that out of trial, as well as police body camera video from immediately after the shooting. In the defense's motion, it said the body camera has audio of one victim identifying the shooter by name.


PREVIOUS STORY: In a second attempt, the man accused of murder asked for a new attorney to defend him.

Brandy Spurgin currently represents Cortez Sims who is accused of killing Talitha Bowman in 2015.

Last week, Sims filed an official complaint against his attorney, but would not provide a specific reason why he's upset with her. Judge Barry Steelman denied that request.

"Just because you don't agree with your attorney on a particular matter. Doesn’t necessarily mean get a new attorney," Judge Steelman said.

Thursday Sims hand wrote a formal motion with the help of other inmates in jail. He alleges that Spurgin is not looking out for his best interests, and is inexperienced.

Sims described the kind of lawyer he's looking for.

"I see Bill Speek on the news all the time. I see how lawyers like him coming here talk to their clients things of that nature,” Sims said in court.

Channel 3 reached out to attorney Bill Speek, he tells us that he has not been approached by Sims and declined to comment whether he would consider representing him if Judge Steelman granted his motion.

"At the present time we've not been hired on any matter related to Mr. Sims case and as such it would be improper to comment any further,” Speek said.

Sims also requested a change of venue and a gag order because of media coverage.

“I came in the courtroom one time and waved at my family and the people on the news said that I’m smiling like I just don't care what I done which I didn't do nothing that's what they said. They said I’m walking in like I don't care, but I’m innocent," Sims said.

Judge Steelman said he finds no misconduct by Spurgin and questioned the timing of Sims' request to fire his attorney.

But Sims says he hopes to replace his attorney in time for the scheduled September 27th trial.

After Sims filed his motion to dismiss his attorney. Spurgin also filed a motion to be released from the case.
Judge Steelman said he needs more time to consider her motion and will have a decision by September 12th.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: Cortez Sims faced Judge Barry Steeleman Thursday morning, asking for the second time for a new attorney to defend him in the 2015 shooting that killed one person and injured three others. One of those injured in the shooting was a one-year-old baby.


PREVIOUS STORY: A Hamilton County judge denies a teen's request for a new attorney in a high-profile murder case. 

Cortez Sims, 19, argued with Judge Barry Steelman Monday about his request for a new attorney. 

The request comes nearly a month before Sims' trial is set to begin. 

Sims is charged in a quadruple shooting that killed one person and hurt three others, including a 1-year-old. 

Sims told the judge his current lawyer, Brandy Spurgin, is inexperienced, hasn't been following his request and isn't looking out for his best interest but Steelman disagreed. 

"I find that Mr. Sims is the source of the problem, not Ms. Spurgin. I think Mr. Sims' refusal to comply with what even the court has ordered for him to do today is indicative to his complaint," Steelman said. 

The ruling came after Steelman ordered Sims to write down what a new attorney could give Sims that Spurgin isn't. 

Sims refused the judge's order. 

Steelman ruled Sims' attorney is effective and says the trial is still set for September 27th. 


PREVIOUS STORY: Monday morning, Judge Barry Steelman reviewed a complaint from defendant Cortez Sims about his lawyer, and denied Sim's request for new legal representation.

Sims was charged in the 2015 fatal shooting of Tolitha Bowman, and three other shootings including that one a one-year-old child.

During Monday's hearing, Sims' lawyer said that they were not comfortable representing Sims. But when questioned by the judge, Sims refused to write down what issues he has with his current attorney.

Steelman then asked Sims what a new attorney could do that his current lawyer had not done in his case; Sims declined to answer.


PREVIOUS STORY: A lawyer in a high profile murder case wants the trial to be moved to another city. 

That's according to one of several motions filed by Cortez Sims' lawyer. 

The 19-year-old is facing a number of charges in connection to a 2015 shooting at College Hill Apartments that killed a woman and hurt three others including a one-year-old baby. 

READ MORE | Mother of baby shot set to testify before being murder

Sims' attorney has asked the judge for a change of venue and to omit testimony from a key witness. 

Brandy Spurgin argues Sims wouldn't be able to get a fair trial due to media coverage of the case, including coverage of the death of one of the state's key witnesses, Bianca Horton. 

She was the mother of the one-year old who was hurt in the shooting and was found shot to death on the side of a road in May. 

Investigators have not said if Horton's death was connected to her plans on testifying during Sims' trial. 

READ MORE | Mother fights for justice for two murder victims

Another motion asks the judge to throw out Horton's statements to police identifying Sims as the shooter, saying she told police at the time of the shooting that she didn't know who pulled the trigger but a few hours later picked Sims out of a line up. 

Spurgin argued Horton's identification was influenced by police and another witness. 

Other motions ask for evidence to be thrown out and for Sims' bond to be reduced. 

The judge will formally hear these motions and make a decision on August 8th. 

Sims trial will start on September 27th. 

WEEKLY CIRCULARS
Powered by Frankly