6-year-old boy testifies he didn't shoot first-grade classmate

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2000

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A 6-year-old boy accused of fatally shooting a classmate had to be coaxed to the witness stand today to testify about the man charged with involuntary manslaughter because of a carelessly stored gun in their home. The boy said he didn't shoot the girl.

Only his eyes and nose could be seen above the witness box as he whispered answers for about 45 minutes. His voice was so quiet, the attorneys had to repeat what he said for the court during the preliminary hearing for Jamelle James.

James, 19, is accused of leaving the semiautomatic handgun in an open shoebox where the little boy could find it.

Police say the youngster took the gun to school Feb. 29, pulled it out during class and shot 6-year-old Kayla Rolland in their first-grade classroom at Buell Elementary School.

The boy's attorney, Douglas Theodoroff, said Thursday the boy received an immunity deal for his testimony even though he is too young to be prosecuted under state law. The youngster has not been charged.

From the stand this morning, the boy said he had seen the gun and some quarters in a shoebox in James' room - an answer that came after Genesee County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Stamos reminded him that was what he had told police.

The boy said he remembered Kayla being shot, but when asked if he shot Kayla, he shook his head ``no.''

On Thursday, the boy's 22-year-old uncle, Sir Marcus Winfrey, testified that James bought the handgun and a shotgun from an acquaintance just before Christmas.

He said James would sometimes show off the gun around the house and pretend to shoot people, but he never did that in front of the 6-year-old and his 8-year-old brother. The boys had been staying at the home with James and Winfrey before the shooting.

``He would just point it at people to play around,'' said Winfrey, who was indicted earlier this month on charges of possessing stolen guns.

Winfrey said the gun was kept in an open shoebox in James' room.

The boy's testimony originally was scheduled for Thursday, but Stamos and defense attorney Jeffrey Skinner spent the day questioning Winfrey and family friend Earthly Knight.

Knight said the handgun didn't belong to James, contradicting earlier statements he made to police.

``I lie sometimes. Everybody lies,'' Knight said. ``What they were trying to do was make me say it was Jamelle's gun.''

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