A Waco man jailed with Keith Antoine Spratt testified Wednesday that Spratt told him he killed Joshua Ladale Pittman in December 2015 and that Tyler Sherrod Clay paid him to do it.
James Spears, 32, a four-time felon, returned to the witness stand Wednesday in 54th State District Court in Clay’s capital murder trial.
Prosecutors Robert Moody, Hilary LaBorde and Christi Hunting Horse and defense attorneys Randy Schaffer and Melanie Walker rested their cases Wednesday afternoon. The attorneys will give jury summations when the trial resumes Thursday morning.
Schaffer and Walker rested their case without calling a witness, but Shaffer strenuously attacked the credibility of two of the state’s main witnesses for their lengthy criminal records and expectations of getting benefits in exchange for their testimonies against Clay.
Clay, 29, of Hewitt, is charged with hiring Spratt to kill Pittman, 37, who was shot four times while playing a video gambling machine at Pick N Pay Foodmart, 504 Faulkner Lane, in December 2015.
Spratt, 30, also is charged with capital murder in Pittman’s death. His case is pending in 19th State District Court.
Spears, who has pending aggravated robbery cases, testified Tuesday that Clay offered to pay him $5,000 to kill Pittman. He testified Wednesday that Spratt told him while they both were in jail that Clay paid Spratt to kill Pittman because Pittman, a paroled sex offender who went on robbery sprees after his release, robbed Clay after a dice game in 2015.
The men were locked up in C wing at the McLennan County Jail but were not in the same tank, Spears said. So Pratt mouthed the word “Bull” to him, which is Clay’s nickname, and he made a gesture like pulling the trigger of a gun. He also held up his hands showing all 10 fingers and then one with five fingers to indicate that Clay paid him $15,000 to kill Pittman, Spears told the jury.
“I pointed at him, like saying, ‘Did you do it?’ and he said yes,” Spears said.
The pair were passing notes, called “kites” in jail slang, from one tank to the other. Spears said Clay’s uncle was in the tank between them, and Clay asked Spears to tell Clay’s uncle that he had killed Pittman for Clay but Clay still owed him $5,000.
Later, both Spears and Spratt were transferred to the private Jack Harwell Detention Center, where they were able to speak more freely during recreation time. Spears said Pratt went into more detail about how he killed Pittman and that he needed the $5,000 that Clay owed him so he could post bail.
LaBorde asked Spears how he felt about hearing the details of the alleged murder for hire.
“I really didn’t feel nothing about it because that’s just the way the streets go,” Spears said. “Based on all those robberies that were happening, somebody had to die. That’s how the streets work.”
In other prosecution testimony Wednesday, Kim King, a county jail employee, testified that jail phone records showed that Spratt, who was in jail, tried to call Clay almost 100 times while he was locked up. Most of the calls either went unanswered or were refused, she said.
Tyquina Gilmore, a reluctant witness with six felony convictions, testified that she told Spratt on behalf of Clay to “chill” and to stop calling his phone so often. She said Clay wanted to tell him that he talked too much, to keep his mouth shut and that “they were going to put two and two together.”
Prosecutors were unable to play recorded phone conversations of Spratt talking to others from jail after Schaffer objected that the state did not provide him copies of the conversations in a timely manner. Judge Matt Johnson precluded the state from playing the tapes for the jury after ruling that the tapes were not provided to the defense in accordance with his order.
If Clay is convicted of capital murder, he faces an automatic life prison term with no parole. The state is not seeking the death penalty.