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Natchez jury acquits man on murder charges

NATCHEZ — A Natchez jury returned a not guilty verdict in a murder trial on Friday in Sixth District Circuit Court after deliberating for approximately two hours.

Da’Larren White was tried for the murder of 27-year-old Rodrique Watson who was shot and killed in the parking lot of Zippy gas station after midnight on March 21, 2018.

The historic trial, which began Wednesday, is the first to be hosted in the Natchez Convention Center under the direction of Sixth District Circuit Court Judge Lillie B. Sanders to allow for adequate social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

White, who took the stand on Thursday, did not deny shooting Watson and said he acted in self-defense after he saw Watson walking toward him carrying a gun.

In his closing statement, Stanley Alexander, who is the assistant to Sixth District Attorney Shameca Collins, said White had “tricked” Watson to approach his truck to buy marijuana before shooting him.

Alexander referred to surveillance footage of White walking around from car to car before the incident.

“Mr. White was going car to car with two bags of weed in his pocket and a set of scales in his truck. He was there to make some money and he wasn’t selling Avon and Tupperware,” Alexander said.

Whites’ attorney, Wayne Dowdy, said the fact that his client was illegally carrying weed had nothing to do with the shooting.

“Two bags of marijuana should not take away his right to claim self-defense,” Dowdy said.

Dowdy further pointed out that White testified he knew of Watson having grown up and gone to school with him in Natchez. However, the two of them were never friends and had not had any contact with each other in years, Dowdy said.

Dowdy said the state prosecution did not provide any proof of a motive that would explain why White would have shot Watson other than to defend himself.

“Unless the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not acting in self-defense, then it is your sworn duty as jurors to find him not guilty,” he said.

Within two hours of the case being turned over to the jury for deliberation, they returned with a verdict of not guilty.