Capital murder trial begins

Published 10:40 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Witness testimony began Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of capital murder.

Christopher Jonta Artis, 21, is accused of shooting 50-year-old John Price Jr. in the 100 block of Brewer Avenue about 4 a.m. on July 8, 2009.

Price was a newspaper carrier for the Virginian-Pilot and was shot as he got out of his van to deliver a newspaper. When officers arrived, Price still was clutching a newspaper in his hand.

Email newsletter signup

Maxine Cherry, a district manager for the Virginian-Pilot, said she was at her Suffolk office when two Suffolk News-Herald carriers came to her office to tell her one of her carriers had been shot on Brewer Avenue.

“I didn’t want to believe it was my carrier, not John,” she said.

She went to the scene and saw Price’s green Ford Windstar van in the middle of the road, door open, radio playing and engine running. Several stacks of newspapers were on the passenger seat. Price was lying on the road behind the van.

News-Herald carrier Andrew Walker testified he had a bad feeling about going down Brewer Avenue that day and instead went to another area of his route. He was on Linden Avenue when he heard the gunshots, he said.

He testified about an encounter he had two nights prior while carrying the paper. He said he was on Brewer Avenue and delivering a paper to a porch when he turned around and was confronted by a man who asked him for a cigarette.

When Walker said he didn’t have one, the man said, “Give me the one you’re smoking,’” Walker testified.

Upon receiving it, the man took it and ran.

The jury also heard testimony from a neighbor who was the first one to get to the victim. He heard the shots that killed Price, he said, and watched someone leave the scene and walk briskly toward the 500 block of Second Avenue.

Artis lived at 545 ½ Second Ave. at the time.

The jury also viewed a video from a police officer’s car as she approached the scene and began to investigate and heard testimony from forensics technicians and detectives who investigated the crime.

Attorneys from the state Capital Defenders Office tried to cast doubt on the value of the witnesses’ testimony, asking most of them if they knew who shot Price.

They all answered “No.”