After nearly six hours of deliberation, a Cole County jury found a Jefferson City man not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of first-degree assault and second-degree assault in connection with a May 2017 shooting that left one man dead.
Cole County Presiding Judge Jon Beetem read the verdict Friday evening against Dana Day Jr., 31. Beetem asked the jury foreman if all the jury agreed on this verdict, and the foreman responded, "Yes."
Beetem said he will hear motions for a new trial and ordered a sentencing advisory report from the Probation and Parole Office. Beetem said that normally takes about 60 days to complete so he scheduled Day Jr. to come back to his court June 1 for potential sentencing.
Cole County Prosecutor Locke Thompson said he was pleased the jury held Day Jr. accountable for his actions and noted he faces a range of punishment of 10-30 years, up to life, in prison for the first-degree assault charge. On the second-degree assault charge, Thompson said the range of punishment is five to 15 years in prison because Day Jr. is a persistent offender.
Day was found guilty of assaulting TaVeeon Fowler, 23, of Jefferson City, on May 8, 2017, near the 700 block of Monroe Street. After the assault, Fowler was shot and later died from his injuries.
Prosecutors say Nyarrius Day, who Day Jr.'s sister and Fowler's ex-girlfriend, was driving a car with Fowler in the passenger seat and two children in the back seat on the night of the shooting. Nyarrius and Fowler were exchanging money he owed her, and Day Jr. opened the driver's door and pulled Fowler across Nyarrius Day's lap.
There was a struggle and fight going on across her lap, and ultimately, Fowler was pulled out of the car and ended up on the pavement.
Prosecutors said Day Jr. and others then assaulted Fowler, and shots were fired, hitting Fowler as he was running away.
Day Jr.'s defense argued Fowler and Nyarrius had a "heated argument that became violent" the night before the incident occurred because Fowler had stolen money from her. They said Nayarrius called her brother because she believed he could protect her if needed.
Day Jr. testified Fowler and Nyarrius had another heated argument in a vehicle the night of the shooting and ended up at the end of the alleyway on Monroe Street, outside of Day Jr.'s girlfriend's house. He testified Fowler began to argue with Nyarrius, which led to Fowler and Day Jr. getting into a fist fight, with no weapons involved.
The fight started at the passenger side, but Fowler crawled over to the driver's side and grabbed the steering wheel and tried to drive the car to get away, Day Jr. testified. Day Jr. followed, pulling Fowler out of the car, and they continued to fight. In the course of the fight, Day Jr.'s leg was injured, which allowed Fowler to get up and run away.
Day Jr. testified other people were at his girlfriend's house who were his friends and relatives. As Fowler was running away, two of those people shot Fowler, Day Jr. said.
Friday's court proceedings started late in the morning with First Assistant Prosecutor Scott Fox bringing Nyarrius back to the stand. She denied much of what her brother testified to when he was on the stand Thursday.
She refuted his testimony that it was just Fowler and he involved in the fight before the shooting; she said others were involved. She also refuted her brother's testimony that she and Fowler were in a verbal argument in the vehicle before the fight and that Fowler verbally threatened to harm her, which caused her brother to attack Fowler.
Nyarris said she did agree with her brother that Devon Skinner shot at Fowler after the fight. Skinner, 26, of Milwaukee, was arrested in September 2020 on a Cole County warrant for unlawful use of weapons, armed criminal action and second-degree murder in the case. Skinner is scheduled to come before Judge Beetem in May. Day Jr. had testified that Skinner was a bystander. But authorities believe Skinner to be one of those who were with Day Jr. when Fowler was beat up.
Under cross examination, Day Jr.'s attorney, Public Defender Michael O'Brien, questioned Nyarrius's story that Fowler didn't have a weapon that night. Nyarrius said she saw Fowler get away after the fight and saw him running but didn't see his hands. O'Brien said he wondered how Nyarrius would know he didn't have a gun if she didn't see his hands.
Closing arguments occurred around mid-day. Fox began by saying prosecutors didn't allege Day Jr. pulled the trigger in the shooting.
"He's not on trial for that, although others testified he said he did," Fox told the jury. "Dana acted in concert with others in the death of Mr. Fowler. We'd like to have video to show all that happened and be able to get physical evidence, but that's not available in this case. We would never be able to try anybody if we were required to have a weapon to charge a person with murder. Mr. Fowler did nothing to merit him being pulled out of a vehicle, beaten and then shot."
Fox asked jurors to look at the coroner's photos to see what "that man did to TaVeeon Fowler," pointing to Day Jr.
"Dana has multiple felony and misdemeanor convictions and you can use that to determine his credibility," Fox said. "The narrative given by Nyarrius has been consistent. You can blame her for not coming forward immediately about what she knew. But after she did come forward and during all three times she was on the stand in this case, she was consistent in her responses. She said a group of men, one being Dana, fought with Mr. Fowler. She said she wasn't arguing with Fowler before. The others who testified, including the inmates who took the stand, were all consistent in saying that in their conversations with Dana he said he killed Fowler and even bragged about it."
In his closing argument, O'Brien told jurors there was no argument from prosecutors showing Day Jr. did or didn't fire a gun and there was no evidence he acted in concert with others. O'Brien pointed out that no firearms were ever recovered, and no gunshot residue or other physical evidence that would show Fowler may have fired a firearm was found.
"The agenda here by prosecutors and law enforcement is to convict my client because of his presence at the time the crime occurred," O'Brien said. "He admits that he was present, but why was he present — to protect his sister from a man (Fowler) who had beaten her."
O'Brien reminded jurors it wasn't until 2020 that Nyarrius came forward and gave the story she claimed happened the night of the shooting.
"Remember, she got an attorney and was originally charged with murder in this case," O'Brien said. "She was wanting to resolve her case positively. That's when the new version came out, and she worked out a deal to testify."
O'Brien said Nyarrius claimed Fowler assaulted her the night before the shooting, and she also realized Fowler robbed her of money.
"She knew Fowler was dangerous so she needed to reach out to Dana for protection and support," O'Brien said.
O'Brien pointed out that one witness, Sequita Bradford, testified a man and woman were arguing loudly in a car before the man was dragged out of the vehicle. He said that would back up Day Jr.'s testimony.
Bradford also testified the fight involved three or four men, seemed to last three to five minutes. She was "pretty sure" one of the men who dragged the man out of the car had a gun. After seeing the flash of the gun fired, Bradford said, she saw the male victim run in front of her house, and he was limping the last time she saw him.
"Nyarrius went to Dana's girlfriend's house because she knew her brother would not let things get out of hand between her and TaVeeon," OBrien said. "He didn't encourage Skinner or act with him. Most of the witnesses in this trial that testified got deals and that was the only way prosecutors could put together a case.
"I think you would feel the same way Dana Day did. He did what he needed to do to protect his sister," O'Brien concluded.
Thompson concluded the closing arguments by telling the jurors they should remember that Day Jr. was, "excited to show you how well he knew how to fight. He was twice the size of Fowler. There was no weapon ever recovered although Dana claimed Fowler had a gun. How come we never heard anybody tell a story like what Dana told you? He told you that because he could be found guilty. Mr. Fowler was not perfect, none of us are, but he didn't deserve to be gunned down from behind."
Along with Skinner, Robert Farrow, 28, of Jefferson City, was also taken into custody in September for his alleged involvement in Fowler's killing. Online court records show Farrow is scheduled to be in Cole County Judge Dan Green's court in May. He's facing second-degree murder, first-degree assault, armed criminal action, second-degree assault and unlawful possession charges.