Both sides give opening statements, victim takes witness stand in 'wrong neighborhood' trial

Both sides give opening statements in 'wrong neighborhood' trial

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The prosecution and defense laid out different versions of a fight, which could land a man in jail for the rest of his life, that happened at a gas station two years ago.

Donald Dickerson, 42, Baton Rouge, is accused of beating a man and two women at a gas station two years ago. Before the attack, Dickerson allegedly told the victims they were in the "wrong neighborhood."

He is charged with second-degree battery in the May 12, 2013 attack. He is facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison if he is convicted as a habitual offender.

Dickerson is accused of beating a man, his wife and their daughter at the Chevron station on Plank Road at Scenic Highway. Police arrested him on a charge of second-degree battery and ticketed two others. They are all accused of punching the family.

Defense attorneys said it is unclear what led to the fight, but once it was broken up, the victim turned into the aggressor and that led to his injuries.

Lead prosecutor Barry Fontenot referred to the defendant as a bully.

"Once you see the evidence, you are going to see that it points to one man and one man only and that's Donald Dickerson," Fontenot said.

Fontenot told the jury the victim, David Ray, had been in Baton Rouge spending the day with his family celebrating Mother's Day and had stopped at the Chevron gas station on Scenic Highway and Plank Road on their way back to their home in St. Francisville.

Ray was in line at an outside pay window to purchase gas when both sides agree the altercation between Ray and Dickerson began.

Ray suffered a broken eye socket, broken nose and several lacerations to the face.

Prosecutors portrayed Dickerson as the aggressor.

Defense attorney Shalita Sanders countered by saying Ray eventually became the aggressor.

"[They] would have you believe that Mr. Dickerson was being a bully and that he targeted Mr. Ray," Sanders said. "The fight was broken up and then Mr. Ray initiated the second part."

Other members of Ray's family received injuries as a result of the incident.

Ray, the man who prosecutors say was the ultimate victim and has permanent injuries as a result of an attack at the hands of Dickerson, told the jury he was knocked unconscious and awoke to find his wife lying unconscious next to him.

"That's when he told me I was in the wrong neighborhood," Ray said from the witness stand.

The defense questioned Ray about what he had to drink that day while celebrating and visiting family and friends. Ray testified that he had a couple of beers throughout the day before heading back to his home in St. Francisville that night.

Defense attorney Bernard Blair asked Ray for specifics as to how the trouble started that night. Ray said that he doesn't remember a lot from that night, but remembers being pushed and then Dickerson getting in his face.

"I was blacked out," Ray said. "Because your client gave me a pretty significant head injury."

Blair said witnesses who rendered aide to Ray have come forward to say that Ray also threw several punches.

The same defense attorney pressed Ray as to why he thought Dickerson thought he was in the wrong neighborhood and Ray shot back, "I should have a right to stop at any gas station without being in the "wrong neighborhood."

Defense attorney Blair also questioned Ray about a civil lawsuit he has filed against several entities including the owners of the gas station and Dickerson seeking damages. Prosecutors point out that lawsuit is separate from the criminal matter and only because the gas station failed to provide adequate security on the night in question.

The trial is expected to last several days.

Dickerson has previously been convicted of armed robbery, purse snatching and a sex crime. Those convictions, in combination with the latest offense, make Dickerson eligible to be tried as a habitual offender.

If found guilty by the six member jury, 19th Judicial District Judge Lou Daniel will decide on a sentence which could include life in prison.

There were some people who wanted Dickerson to face hate crime charges, but District Attorney Hillar Moore decided to try him using Louisiana's habitual offender section of the law. If convicted of a hate crime, Dickerson would only face the possibility of an extra five years added to his sentence.

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.