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Luster found guilty of murder

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — James C. Luster looks up as tears fall while his mother addresses the court during the sentencing phase after he was convicted of the murder of Carlos “Mo” Wright.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the witness that testified Tuesday that he shot Carlos “Mo” Wright twice in buttocks. Gerald K. Davis, 19, 11 Fifth St., testified that he shot Wright twice in the buttocks the night Wright was murdered. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.

NATCHEZ — Moments after a jury told James C. Luster Wednesday he was guilty of murder, the victim’s mother demanded Luster’s attention.

Anna Wright wanted to know why her son, Carlos “Mo” Wright, had to die.

“I just want to tell you that I can’t believe you did this to my son,” she said shaking her head. “I’m in pain, pain, pain. He was my only son, and you knew him.”

Luster, 21, 551 W. Stiers Lane, was apparently a longtime friend of Wright’s son when he gunned down Carlos outside Carlos’ Scotts Lane residence on March 6, 2012.

“All I want to let (you) know is that this was something that didn’t have to happen,” Wright said to Luster, who cried as he sat behind the defendant’s table. “I just want to know one thing: Why? Why?”

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Carlos Wright’s mother Anna Wright, far left, and other members of the Wright family wait to hear Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders sentence their son’s killer to life in prison without parole.

Before Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders sentenced him to life in state prison, Luster turned and faced Wright and contended his innocence.

“I didn’t kill your son, and that’s the honest to God truth,” Luster said.

“And if Mo was in my situation, I know his momma would feel the same way, I know she would know that Mo didn’t kill me.”

Luster’s mother, Lorraine Anderson, addressed the court before her son’s sentencing and said she believed her son was innocent.

“No matter what happened today or what people think, I taught my children about God,” she said. “I love him no matter what happened today.”

“Keep your faith in God,” Anderson said to her son, her voice cracking with tears. “The Lord has brought me through a lot, and he is going to bring you through this.”

Two other men — Frederick Hunt Jr., 19, 381 Morgantown Road, and Gerald K. Davis, 19, 11 Fifth St. — charged in the crime testified Monday that Luster had committed the crime.

Davis pleaded guilty to manslaughter last week; Hunt said in court Monday that he was testifying in hopes of receiving a lesser charge. Assistant District Attorney David Hall pointed out Monday that no deal has been made between the state and Hunt for a lesser charge.

Luster’s lawyer, Kevin Colbert, maintained throughout the trial that Hunt and Davis were liars that were trying to blame the murder on Luster.

Colbert said during his closing statements that the state was not able to provide any other witnesses that could back up the story of Hunt and Davis.

Hunt and Davis testified Tuesday that they were playing dice on Fifth Street the night of the murder when Luster showed up and borrowed a .40 caliber gun from another individual. Hunt and Davis said they got in the car and left with Luster.

Colbert asked the jury Wednesday in closing statements why none of the other people who were on Fifth Street with Hunt and Davis came forward to support their story.

“Because it didn’t happen, that’s why,” he said.

District Attorney Ronnie Harper said during his closing statements that despite good police work, some people do not want to cooperate with investigations.

Luster’s friends Alexis Williams and Ethel Williams testified Tuesday that Luster and his cousin Casey Campbell were at Ethel’s house in Vidalia. Alexis said Luster asked to borrow her Chevrolet Malibu prior to going to Fifth Street.

Hunt and Davis both testified Tuesday that they saw Luster shoot Carlos multiple times after arguing with Carlos outside his house. Davis said Luster told him that Carlos had seen their faces and that Davis had to shoot Carlos. Davis said he shot Carlos twice in the buttocks because he feared Luster would kill him if he did not.

Davis said after shooting Wright, he threw his gun in a bayou on West Stiers Lane, and he and Hunt ran to Alabama Street, where both men said Luster saw them and picked them up.

West Stiers Lane resident David Ross testified that he saw two men running in his yard and alerted police.

NPD officer Elvis Prater testified that he was en route to Ross’ house when he was flagged down by a friend of Wright’s who said Wright had been shot.

The friend had apparently tried to put Wright in his car to take him to the hospital, but Wright was dead, Prater said.

Davis and Hunt, who were in a gang together, both said that Luster instructed them when he picked them up on Alabama Street not to tell anyone what happened or he would kill them.

Hunt and Davis testified that they did not know Wright.

Alexis said Luster returned to the house after midnight and told her and his cousin Casey Campbell that he had killed Wright.

Alexis said Luster asked her to write a statement saying he never left Ethel’s house the night of the murder, and Alexis said she did make such a statement because she was in fear for her life.

Harper questioned Tuesday why Luster felt the need to take two alibis with him to the police station the next day if he did not commit the crime.

“If you ain’t got something to hide, why do you do that?” Harper said.

Alexis later changed her story and said she told Natchez Detective Otis Mazique when he called her approximately two weeks later that Luster had told her he had killed Carlos.

Colbert said again Wednesday that Alexis was lying, and her testimony could not be supported.

Harper said that Alexis has no motive to point to Luster as Carlos’ killer, other than wanting to tell the truth.

The jury, which comprised seven black women, two white women, two black men and one white man, deliberated for two hours before returning a unanimous guilty verdict.

Correction: The above article published in the Jan. 31 edition of The Natchez Democrat misidentified the person who testified that he shot the victim, Carlos “Mo” Wright. Gerald Davis testified that he shot Wright in the buttocks two times. The story above reflects the correct information. We regret the error and are glad to set the record straight.

 

 

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