Defense: Pot theft prompted killings on Boise Bench

The attorney for Samari P. Winn says that little evidence ties his client to the actual shootings in Boise in May.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJuly 11, 2014 

Samari Winn

Randall Barnum, who is representing Samari P. Winn, said Thursday that the theft of 30 pounds of marijuana sparked the May 8 shooting deaths of two men at a residence on the Bench. A woman also was shot but survived.

Winn, 34, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder, but Barnum said his client had a "minor, minor role" in the crimes at 2178 S. Orchard St. and deserved to be freed on bond. He said Winn was wrongly named as an assailant by a frightened woman who might have been involved in the shootings herself.

Elliott Bailey, 28, and Travontae Calloway, 27, both acquaintances of Winn, were killed in the attack.

Barnum asked 4th District Judge Lynn Norton to release his client on $50,000 bond; Norton denied the motion, saying she could not be certain that Winn would stick around for trial if he got out of jail. Winn grew up in California and appears to have stronger ties to that state than Idaho, according to court records and statements made in court.

Norton also said she wanted to protect the community.

"I think there is a significant risk of flight," Norton said. "I am not going to set bond."

Winn could face a death sentence if convicted. Prosecutors have until Aug. 25 to decide whether to pursue that penalty.

Prosecutors have said that Winn stooped by the evening of the killings with a bottle of tequila and spent several hours at the apartment. Calloway and his girlfriend, Jeanette Juraska, the woman who was shot and injured, lived at the apartment. Bailey was there visiting.

Winn left at one point, saying he planned to return before midnight, prosecutors said. Juraska testified in a previous hearing that the doorbell rang about 11:20 pm. and that she assumed it was a pizza delivery.

She said she opened the door and instead saw Winn with another man. The second man - who has not been arrested and whom police have not named publicly - is accused of shooting all three victims.

"The shooter pushed Mr. Winn out of the way and shot into the living room," Barnum said in court.

Barnum noted that the woman originally told a 911 dispatcher that she didn't recognize either of the men at the door. Later, she identified Winn; in court, Juraska said she was pretty sure she had seen the shooter when she spent a week in October with Winn and two others at a marijuana farm in Northern California. She said the man sat across from her at a table as they trimmed leaves off marijuana plants, but never identified himself.

In court last month, Juraska said she feared for her safety when she told the 911 dispatcher that she didn't recognize the men.

NOT 'HAPPENSTANCE'

On Thursday, Barnum claimed that the woman made up the story about Winn's involvement. He said she either was involved herself or was threatened by the real killers to keep their identities secret. He said Winn's name was provided to police at random.

The killings, Barnum said, were in retaliation for a drug theft by Bailey and Calloway. He didn't offer details about the alleged theft, including where or when it occurred.

"I don't think it's happenstance that Mr. Winn had been in her house earlier and he was likely the first person who comes to mind," he said.

Prosecutor Grant Loebs said that releasing Winn, who moved to Idaho three years ago, would pose too great a risk. He said Winn has a long criminal history dating to 1995 in California. Winn has been convicted of car theft, cocaine possession, and possession of cocaine for sale, and he spent eight years in the San Quentin and Folsom prisons.

Loebs, the Twin Falls County prosecuting attorney, is acting as a special prosecutor in the case. He told Norton that other witnesses saw Winn and the shooter leave Calloway's apartment after the killings. Loebs said the two men were seen together at a strip club later that night, and the shooter stayed at Winn's home that night.

Loebs was appointed to handle the case because of a potential conflict of interest in the Ada County prosecutor's office. Employees in that office know some of the witnesses in the case, Deputy Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu said.

Winn is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 17. The trial is scheduled to last 10 days.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service