Judge Stacy Street will spend about an hour this morning discussing the applicable points of law for the jury and then the 12 jurors will begin deliberations.
Wednesday’s testimony was highlighted by Sarden’s account of the Aug. 17, 2015, slaying of Karen Parker, 49, in her Nathaniel Drive Apartment. Sarden testified that he accompanied Aaron Garland to Parker’s residence that night but remained outside when Garland went inside and strangled Parker in a robbery. About $50 in cash, a debit card, and a Walmart gift card were taken.
Sarden said he did not know the slaying had been committed while he was waiting outside. He said he did not go inside the apartment with Garland because Parker had thrown the two men out of her home two days before.
Sarden said Garland was an old friend he met when the two were roommates in a youth group home. They had lost touch when Sanden was old enough to leave the home and went to North Carolina.
Garland was convicted of Parker’s death in April 2017 and is serving a life sentence in prison. The state contends Sarden helped Garland in the murder and robbery.
The jury will have to decide between the account Sarden gave Wednesday and the account he gave days after Parker’s death. A video of that account was played for the jury on Wednesday.
That video was incomplete. Sarden gave his statement to Criminal Investigator Justin Adams of the Johnson City Police Department soon after he was arrested in Kingsport. Adams said the Kingsport Police Department provided a room for his interview with Sarden, but the only way Adams could video the statement was with his own iPad. He did not realize the iPad timed out before the interview was complete.
The video was presented to the jury when Adams testified. It shows a distraught Sarden telling Adams “I played my part,” and “this is real life.” Adams said Sarden told him his DNA would not be found on Parker’s neck, but would be found on the pillow. In fact, Sarden’s DNA was not found.
When District Attorney General Ken Baldwin asked Adams if he had discussed details of the murder with Sarden, Adams said he had not and had not discussed the pillow as the murder weapon on his own.
Although the last part of Sarden’s 2015 statement was not recorded on the video, the state had Kingsport Police Officer Gerald Ray testify. Ray said he just happened to be near the room where Adams interviewed Sarden. Ray corroborated the account Adams had given.
Sarden said Adams misinterpreted what he meant in the 2015 statement. Sarden saidwhat he meant by “I played my part” was that he unwittingly stood outside as a lookout while Parker was killed.
Sarden said he talked about the DNA on the pillow because when Garland finally told him about the killing, he said Sarden’s DNA will be found in the apartment and he would be sent to prison also.
The first witnesses to testify on Wednesday were Darren Ricker, who worked in security for Walmart, and John Patterson, a Regions Bank branch manager. They provided detailed reports of where Parker’s debit card and gift card had been used after her death.
Baldwin used the details of the two cards to provide details of the spending Sarden and Garland had done after Parker’s death. Sarden said the cards had been used to buy cigarettes, drinks and dinners. Assistant District Attorney General Fred Lance used the description to tell the jury in the closing arguments that Parker’s murder had been committed for “walking around money.”
Baldwin used the details of the expenditures in a lengthy cross examination of Sarden in an attempt to show Sarden was lying about some of the details. During the closing arguments, Baldwin apologized for the tediousness of the detailed cross examination, but he wanted to show the jury that when the truth is told, “the story adds up.” He said Sarden’s story “just didn’t add up.”
Defense attorney Patrick Denton said Sarden’s story was truthful and stood up to the lengthy cross examination. He told the jury the state’s video was faulty because it ended before Sarden finished his statement. He questioned the corroboration of the end of the statement by another police officer who just happened to be on the scene.