Revenge or self-defense?
That's what Wake County Assistant District Attorney Becky Holt asked the jury during her closing argument in the trial of Justin Bass, 25, a Fuquay-Varina man charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury
. The shooting, which occurred during a late-night gathering at the Bay Tree apartment complex in Fuquay last July 4, left Jerome Fogg, 27, with five gunshot injuries, which he survived. Bass testified that he shot Fogg after Fogg reached for a knife at his hip from a distance of about 6 feet away.
The jury is now in deliberation.
Holt and Bass' attorney, Michael Howell, agree that the shooting was directly linked to an incident that occurred one week prior, in which Fogg punched Bass three times in the face
, leading to a broken jaw and surgery. But their reasoning differs.
Holt says that Bass saw Fogg enter the complex and, after giving it some thought, decided to kill Bass as revenge for humiliating him by beating him up in front of his friends.
Fogg "thought it was over," said Holt. "But it wasn't over for Mr. Bass. He had unfinished business." After spotting Fogg in the complex, Bass began "getting up the nerve to shoot Mr. Fogg," said Holt.
Howell, in turn, said that the fight the week before gave reason for Bass to fear for his life, and that it factored into Bass' decision to shoot Fogg in self-defense.
The fight began over an argument about a gang gesture. Bass, who claimed allegiance to the Piru branch of the Bloods, messed up the special handshake with Fogg, who also claimed allegiance to the Pirus.
The night of the shooting, Bass claims Fogg approached him and offered to shake his hand, which he declined because he recalled what happened the last time he messed up the handshake. Bass testified that Fogg then taunted him, saying things like, "I'm going to break your other jaw," "You like drinking Ensure?" and "You got five minutes to leave." Bagg said he backtracked, prompting Fogg to say, "Nah, nigga, I said get on the concrete."
"He was terrified," Howell told the jury. Fogg approached him "like a predator who was gonna play with his prey."
Bass claims he shot Fogg after Fogg reached for a knife emerging from his hip — presumably the same knife Fogg had used to decapitate a cat on the same night he beat Bass up, according to a security guard.
Displaying the two-foot knife with a jagged blade to the jury, Howell said, "It's not a little pocketknife. You ain't gonna do no whittling with this."
Fogg is a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter with the street name was "Bam-Bam," which refers to the Flintstones character who likes to hit things.
Fogg disagrees with Bass' account of the fight and the shooting, testifying that Bass provoked them both. The night of the shooting, Fogg says that Bass popped out of the breezeway and mumbled through his wired mouth, "You broke my jaw, mothafucka...I'm gonna pop you." Just before Bass shot, Fogg testified, Fogg said, "I've never run before, so I'm not gonna start now."
After the shooting Bass fled, and ultimately dumped the gun in a river in Norfolk, Va., before police arrested him.
An attempted murder verdict requires premeditation and deliberation. Self-defense in shooting incidents carries four elements: that the person shot was the aggressor; that the shooter was in fear of his life or great violent injury; that such fear was reasonable; and that the use of force was not excessive.
Judge Paul Ridgeway is allowing the jury to consider Fogg's reputation for violence and aggression when determining who was the aggressor the night of the shooting.