Trial begins for alleged robbers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – Fourteen jurors were selected and opening statements were heard Monday in the trial of three men accused of armed robberies that took place in early April in Concordia Parish.

Twins Tyrone Banks and Tony Banks, 22, of 637 Edward Drive in Memphis, each face two charges of armed robbery in the April 3 robbery of Vidalia’s Pizza Hut and four charges of armed robbery in the April 4 robbery of Ezy Pay Furniture in Ferriday.

Antonio Hawkins, 21, of 500 Sycamore St. in Vidalia, faces four charges of armed robbery, one count for each victim, in connection with the Ezy Pay robbery.

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A fourth defendant, Stanton Easley, 41, of 2406 25th St. in Nashville, pleaded guilty early Monday morning and was sentenced by District Judge Leo Boothe to 85 years in prison on each of two counts of armed robbery and 10 years on possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, with the sentences to run concurrently.

Assistant District Attorney Ronnie McMillan characterized the defendants as violent men who robbed the Ezy Pay victims with machine guns, yelling &uot;shut up or I’ll kill you, … (and) jamming pistols against the side of their heads to shut them up.&uot;

He also said jurors will view a videotape the men made at a gumbo cookoff earlier on the day of the Pizza Hut robbery. &uot;They waved wads of money around … and said ‘We’re going to get more’,&uot; McMillan said.

But public defender Derrick Carson urged jurors to carefully analyze all testimony and evidence and to not make up their minds until deliberation.

&uot;Also, be careful not to let one person’s actions taint your opinion about the other (defendants),&uot; Carson said. &uot;We ask you this — to keep an open mind.&uot;

Jury selection took almost six hours, with opening statements and Boothe’s instructions to the jury taking exactly one hour.

Although Boothe did not sequester the jury, he told members not to discuss the case among themselves or with anyone else and not to expose themselves to any media coverage of the trial.

Boothe said during court that the trial might last &uot;one or two days.&uot;

While none of Tony or Tyrone Banks’ relatives were there, several of Hawkins’ relatives attended the first day of the trial.