Justin Dixon’s defense attorney on Wednesday hammered at the only eyewitness to place his client at a Charlotte murder scene with a gun in his hand.
On Tuesday, Dion Ruff gave compelling testimony on how Dixon fired repeatedly down from a van on him and his best friend the night of Nov. 15, 2012. Michael Crawley died; Ruff was wounded, operated on twice, and spent more than seven weeks in the hospital.
On Wednesday, Ruff took on a defensive role – forced to explain inconsistencies in the statements he’s given about the shooting and the suspects.
In a quiet, methodical offensive that stretched over several hours, defense attorney Desmond McCallum tried to chip away at the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness.
Among his inquiries:
▪ Was Dixon the clean-shaven killer that Ruff described in court on Tuesday or did he wear dreadlocks, as Ruff maintained in earlier statements to police and prosecutors?
▪ How could Ruff first tell authorities that he didn’t get a good look at the shooter only to later testify in detail about Dixon’s lips, skin and facial expressions?
▪ On March 1, 2013, four months after the shooting, Ruff told police and prosecutors he wished he could “remember (their) faces.” Moments later he picked out Dixon and an accomplice from a series of photographs. How? McCallum asked.
Authorities say Dixon and friends Phillip Henderson and Cedrick Mobley believed Crawley and Ruff had driven into the neighborhood to do them harm. In reality, Crawley was taking Ruff home after Ruff cut his hair.
Mobley has pleaded guilty to related charges and could testify against Dixon.
Henderson awaits his own murder trial. He wore dreadlocks at the time of the shooting, which Ruff says explains why he first described Dixon as having longer hair.
If convicted, Dixon faces a mandatory life sentence without parole. McCallum acknowledges that his client was in the van that night but says the evidence points toward Mobley being the killer.
At the close of his cross-examination, McCallum led a reluctant Ruff through the details of three felony convictions – including battery and dealing with stolen goods – lodged against him in other states.
The former assistant district attorney also worked to leave the impression that Ruff’s testimony and identification of suspects had been helped along by prosecutors and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, including Detective Tim Jolly, the lead investigator in the case.
Ruff said many of the inconsistencies in his depictions of people and events took place during interviews he doesn’t even remember – in the minutes after he lost his best friend and had been shot in the stomach, and in the intensive care unit of Presbyterian Hospital.
Assistant District Attorney Anna Greene offered her own retort.
“Mr. Ruff, did I ever tell you to identify a photo of Mr. Dixon?”
“No ma’am,” Ruff replied.
“Was I there the night you were shot?”
“Was Detective Jolly?”
“Was Mr. Dixon?” Greene asked.
“Yeah, he was there,” Ruff said.
“No further questions.”