Some of the state’s top criminal lawyers are squaring off Tuesday in a Richland County murder trial about what authorities have said is a dispute over a few coins that could land a teenager in prison for life.
The case involves Jermaine Davis, now 17, was charged with murder in the Aug. 5 shooting death of Zaire Franklin, 25, outside of Stop & Go Corner Store on Kay Street, according to a warrant and evidence in the case. At the time of the shooting, Davis was days away from his 17th birthday.
Prosecuting Davis are 5th Circuit assistant solicitors Luck Campbell and Meghan Walker, who between them have tried many high profile murder cases, rarely losing. Defending Davis are Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian and his co-counsel, Chris Kenney. A jury was seated Monday.
Harpootlian, a former 5th Circuit Solicitor and well-known defense lawyer, routinely charges six-figure fees. But he told The State newspaper that he is representing Davis for what the attorney called a “nominal” fee.
“This trial is about ensuring the system is fair,” Harpootlian said Monday of Davis, who was brought up in foster homes.
Normally, Davis would qualify for a tax-supported public defender since he has no source of income, Harpootlian said. If convicted of murder, Davis faces 30 years to life behind bars.
The shooting happened three days after Davis and one of his acquaintances asked Franklin to buy a cigar for them from the store because they are under age, Richland County deputies said when Davis’ arrest was announced.
Franklin, who was going into the store, bought the cigar and kept the change, which amounted to less than $1, deputies said. The three then argued over the money. Franklin died of a gunshot wound to the upper torso.