After a little more than three hours of deliberation, a Fayette Circuit Court jury decided Thursday to convict a Lexington man of second-degree manslaughter, instead of murder, in the shooting death of a man outside a bar in July 2008.
The jury recommended a 10-year sentence for Yves M. Garner, 33, who says he unloaded an entire clip into Henry "Hank" Means. Means, 35, was shot nine times about 11:30 p.m. July 20, 2008, outside Around the Korner bar on Anniston Drive.
Garner maintained that he shot Means, a local leader of the Chicago-based gang Four Corner Hustlers, because he feared for his life and the lives of his family and a friend. Garner, his wife, their children and several other people saw Means' brother, David "Shorty" Means, kill their good friend, Jamal Covington, two months earlier.
Henry Means had been trying to get witnesses to the shooting not to talk to authorities, the defense maintained.
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Garner's wife, Teresa, was determined to testify against David Means before a grand jury on July 21, 2008, according to the defense.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kimberly Henderson Baird said in closing arguments Thursday that the defense spent a lot of time talking about how mean, violent and scary Henry Means was and how Garner tried to get away from the gang. But, she said, Garner was right there with the gang, that they were all brothers, all family.
Garner told the jury that he joined the Four Corner Hustlers in Chicago when he was 8. He said that in 1997 the gang killed his best friend, then shot and slashed him multiple times because he was going to tell authorities what he knew about the killing. After recovering, Garner hid from the gang, he said. Garner showed jurors a long scar across his neck that he said resulted from the attack.
Garner began associating with members of the Lexington branch of the gang after a co-worker overheard him talking on a phone and deduced that Garner might belong to the gang. Garner told him he did, he said. Garner told the jury that the only way a member could leave the gang was to turn 60 or be in a coffin.
"He wasn't trying to get out of that gang. These were his friends," Henderson Baird said of Garner's fellow gang members in Lexington, including the Means brothers and Covington.
The fatal shooting of Covington, 35, and the wounding of Covington's then 18-year-old son, Brandon Dockery, in May 2008 stemmed from "a stupid, stupid, heated fight over a plate of barbecue," Henderson Baird said. "This wasn't a gang thing," she said. Four Corner Hustlers in Lexington weren't wild — they went bowling together and had barbecues, she said.
There were a whole lot of people Henry Means would have to "take out" to keep them from testifying against his brother, she said. She said several people talked to police after Covington was shot, including the Garners' then 11-year-old son, Zachary. She questioned why the Garners would let their son talk to police if they were so scared.
Means had no weapon when he was shot, Henderson Baird said.
Instead of checking to see if his family was OK just after he shot Means, Garner had friends who were with him at the time of the shooting drop him off elsewhere, she said.
Defense attorney Tom Griffiths said during a break in the trial that several people besides the Garners were threatened by Henry Means and told not to talk to authorities about the shooting of Covington. But they were unwilling to testify at Yves Garner's trial, he said.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this was a case of self-defense," Griffiths said to the jury about the shooting of Henry Means. Garner had testified that he shot Means just after Means threatened to kill Teresa Garner and threatened to kill the Garners' friend, Markel Davis. Yves Garner thought Means had a gun, Griffiths said.
"The law doesn't require him to stand there and wait to get shot."
Griffiths said it took him months to earn Yves Garner's trust because Garner was so scared of the gang. Griffiths said it took at least another six months to persuade Garner to tell the truth in court.
Pastor Virgil S. Means, older brother of Henry and David Means, said Thursday in a phone interview that Henry Means was not a violent person and that he was stunned by the verdict. "It's hurtful for that type of verdict to come out," he said. "My brother was slaughtered."
Means, who pastors Agape Church in Chicago and is a juvenile counselor for the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago, said he tried to talk to his younger brothers about their lifestyles. Henry Means, he said, wanted to change because of the child he was having.
Henry Means' girlfriend, Summer Emerson, was eight months pregnant when he was shot. Their daughter, Jayla, was born in August 2008. Henry Means also left behind a son, Marcellus, who is 13.
Griffiths said Garner is to get credit for the approximately 16 months he's already spent in jail. The attorney said he would see what he could do about getting Garner special protection while he is incarcerated.
The jury found Garner not guilty of evidence tampering in the shooting. Garner's wife and four children, Griffiths said, have been in hiding since sometime in 2009 because they fear reprisals from the Four Corner Hustlers.
Teresa Garner testified at the trial because Griffiths promised he would make sure she was safe, Griffiths said.