Defense attorneys: Wrong defendant in 2006 slaying

Published 3:44 am Thursday, October 8, 2009

Defense attorneys say the wrong person is on trial for capital murder in the 2006 slaying of a woman who was five months pregnant.

Carla Hughes is on trial in the stabbing and shooting death of 27-year-old Avis Banks and her unborn child. Hughes’ attorneys said in opening arguments Monday that the defendant should be Keyon Pittman, who was the dead woman’s fiancee.

“Carla didn’t shoot Avis Banks, and there is no evidence to show she did,” attorney Johnnie Walls told jurors.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Keyon Pittman was initially a suspect, and he should still be a suspect,” Walls said.

He described Pittman as a “bona fide, certified womanizer.”

Madison County District Attorney Michael Guest said the evidence will show Hughes is guilty.

“She had the motive, the means and opportunity to commit the crime,” Guest said during his opening statements.

Hughes has maintained her innocence and has been jailed since 2006.

Banks and Pittman were living together, expecting a child and planning to get married, prosecutors said.

Pittman, who was a teacher at Jackson’s Chastain Middle School in 2006, also was having a relationship with Hughes, then a first-year teacher at Chastain. Guest said it was that relationship that led Hughes to shoot and stab Banks in the garage of the couple’s home on Nov. 29, 2006.

Pittman, who is now married and living in another state, is expected to acknowledge the relationship with Hughes when he testifies for the state, according to prosecutors.

A jury of nine women and three men was seated Monday after a weeklong selection process.

Guest told jurors prosecutors will show the gun used to kill Banks has been tied to Hughes. A relative of Hughes turned the .38-caliber revolver over to police, Guest said.

A Ridgeland police officer testified Monday that Pittman was cradling Banks’ lifeless body when police arrived at the crime scene.

Hughes’ attorneys say Pittman had a motive to kill Banks because he didn’t want a child.

Guest told jurors that some of Banks’ blood was found on Hughes’ shoes.

“Carla Hughes was making calls less than a quarter mile from where Avis Banks was killed,” he said.

Walls said Hughes didn’t know Banks, had never met her and never talked to her.

“Carla had no ill will against Avis Banks,” Walls said.